By David Cook
DIRTY POLITICS AND VOTER SUPPRESSION IN LOCAL ELECTIONS
New York has what we call “Fusion Voting” where multiple parties are listed on the ballot. Most of the 3rd parties are not strong enough to field candidates that can realistically compete without cross endorsement. In some communities’ 3rd party voters are important, because one in three voters enrolled in a 3rd party or no party. Republican (R) and Democrat (D) candidates often seek cross-endorsement from 3rd parties, typically along similar left-right ideological lines. In Monroe, Rs have seen enrollment advantages steadily evaporate in recent years across once solidly red suburban districts.
Three weeks ago, 13 D candidates in Monroe were sued by a group of Rs seeking to knock the Ds off the Working Families Party (WFP) ballot. I am running for town board in Mendon. I do not have a WFP designation because I made the decision to run after WFP had made its designations. Nonetheless I was named as a party in the lawsuit. We quickly learned that this lawsuit was repeated in 15 other New York counties.
The lawsuits claimed that authorization certificates permitting the cross-party designations should be invalidated because necessary signatures by party officials were facsimiles instead of originals. WFP in turn argued that based on Covid-19 emergency protocols and more recent state law changes allowing for electronic execution of legal documents that the cases should be dismissed. The lawsuits — funded by the local and state R Party — were brought by a handful of local elected officials, political staffers, and other well-connected party members, and filed by State R Party lawyer. In my case our town supervisor and his wife challenged the Mendon candidates.
Our law firm was engaged by all the Monroe County candidates to represent them. To be completely frank this lawsuit is a bald face attempt to rig the system. To knock candidates off the ballot of a 3rd party line. All the arguments made by the R lawyers in the Monroe County case were rejected by the court. Then all 15 cases were consolidated in Onondaga County. This week after an intense weekend of briefing and an army of lawyers representing candidates, parties, and county boards of elections a virtual trial was conducted yesterday.
In Monroe county, the Rs failed to name as parties 15 additional candidates who received WFP designations. In other words, they cherry-picked certain races where they thought they were most vulnerable. We argued, the failure of the Rs to join “necessary parties,” because if a certificate of authorization would be invalid as to some candidates, it could be deemed invalid as to all the candidates, is fatal to their case.
Judge Delconte went even further in issuing his decision today. He dismissed all of the R claims on procedural grounds for failure to name all necessary parties. But then he wrote, “However, were the Court to reach the merits of the [R] application, the Petitions would be dismissed . . . “ Make no mistake this is a complete and utter smack down of the attempt by the R party to disenfranchise members of the WFP party for no reason other than political gain. It is ugly and wrong. There is no other way to interpret this lawsuit. Now here is the question – if you are a traditional R and learned that some leaders in your party, even your elected officials, changed their registration solely for the purpose of attempting to knock the other party of the ballot, or decided as Rs to meddle in the WFP completely legal process in order to suppressing the vote of WFP, would that bother you?
Let’s be frank party politics especially national platforms have little to do with local town and city elections. Town boards are where the rubber meets the road literally. Roads, sewers, libraries, parks, community centers, etc. are what matter. To think that some party officials are so desperate to retain power to pull this prank in my view should give pause to anyone and cause one to consider not which party they vote for in a local election but what values and integrity they vote for. I submit this is a glaring reason to reconsider who you vote for come November. Your R elected officials participated in this charade. The rule of law prevailed.