Judge rejects GOP bid to kick Democrats off line for working families

A state judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by members of the Republican Party in Monroe County that sought to prevent 37 Democratic candidates from appearing on the Working Families Party line in the upcoming primary and general elections.

Republicans had alleged that the Working Families Party failed to properly authenticate the nominating petitions of candidates it sought to cross-support.

Their case, filed in the state’s Supreme Court in early April, mirrored those of 13 other people filed by Republicans in counties across the state. Eventually, the 14 cases were consolidated and assigned to state Supreme Court Judge Scott Delconte of Oswego County, who dismissed each of them on technical grounds.

Sharon Cromwell, deputy state director of the New York Working Families Party, made the decision a validation.

“The New York State Supreme Court confirmed what we knew all along: that the GOP case does not stand up to the facts,” Cromwell said. “This whole process is a shameless attempt to suppress the voters’ voice and interfere with the democratic process. Republicans know they can’t win at the polls, so they’re just wasting time and money in court.

New York allows what is known as “merger voting” or cross-voting, which means that a candidate can be approved by more than one party. The result is that a candidate’s name can appear on the ballot multiple times under multiple party lines – a potentially worrying prospect for a challenger who may be relegated to a single party line.

In cases filed statewide, Republican plaintiffs have sought to oust Democrats in contested races to secure a second line ballot with the approval of the Working Families Party.

Republicans had argued that the Working Families Party violated state electoral law by electronically cutting and pasting signatures intended to validate petitions for nominations of specific candidates. The law, they argued, requires signatures on these documents to be original, or what is referred to as “wet.”

Officials of the Working Families Party argued that the documents they sent to local electoral councils were authorized under a governor’s decree that allowed documents to be sent electronically during the pandemic.

Dismissing the Monroe County case on technical grounds, Delconte noted that plaintiffs neglected to name in the lawsuit many candidates the Working Families Party approved but who were in undisputed races. He also said the plaintiffs lacked standing because they were neither members of the Working Families Party nor candidates with cross-endorsement by the party.

Delconte wrote, however, that he would have dismissed the 14 lawsuits on their merits anyway, believing that there is no statutory requirement that nominations from multiple parties contain hand-affixed “wet” signatures. .

“On the contrary,” the ruling read, “Parliament has expressly permitted electronic signatures on electoral and other documents through the Electronic Signatures and Registers Act.”

In Monroe County, 61 Democratic candidates – including the 37 named in the lawsuit – were approved by the Working Families Party. Candidates are running for a variety of local offices, ranging from seats in the county legislature to offices on the boards of suburban towns in Greece, Henrietta, Perinton, Pittsford and Webster which were once Republican strongholds but who have been liberal in recent years.

Mike Barry, a county GOP spokesperson, said the party has no plans to appeal the decision, but leaders “will leave our options open.”

Monroe County Democratic Committee chairman Zach King said the outcome was what he and other party leaders had hoped for.

Jeremy Moule is the editor-in-chief of CITY. He can be reached at [email protected]

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