A top state elections official warned that State Sen. Jack Martins’ bid for a special Dec. 6 congressional election would result in a dramatic drop in voter turnout for the 3rd District race if it’s held after the Nov. 8 presidential election.
“Based on my experience, it is clear that turnout in elections to fill vacancies held on days other than a general election have considerably less voter participation,” Robert Brehm, the state’s Board of Elections co-executive director, said in court papers. He based his estimate of lower voter numbers on a 70 percent presidential turnout in which 485,000 would vote, compared with recent state special election turnout for Congress, which has run from 11.3 percent to 37.3 percent.
Nassau, Suffolk and New York City election boards opposed or offered an alternative to Martin’s request in advance of Monday’s hearing before U.S. District Court Judge Frederick Scullin in Syracuse, citing the high cost — as much as $1.35 million — for a special election. “The cost would be a significant and unnecessary imposition on taxpayers,” Nassau County Attorney Carnell Foskey stated in court papers filed Thursday.
The fight over a new election date arose because Scullin ordered a special Oct. 6 Republican primary — 33 days before the general election. That primary was ordered after a long fight in state courts that found GOP challenger Philip Pidot had more than 1,250 signatures to qualify for the primary, but it was too late to get on the June 28 primary ballot.
Martins (R-Old Westbury), the GOP-designated candidate, asked for a new election date or a cancellation of the Oct. 6 primary, claiming there could be delays in ballots going out, causing confusion among military voters. He also said the primary would put him at a disadvantage by limiting his campaign spending and the time he has to campaign against Democratic nominee Thomas Suozzi, the former Nassau county executive who won a five-way primary in June. Backing Martins with a friend of the court brief was the Reserve Officers Association.
The Federal Voting Assistance Program is to rule Monday on a state request for a waiver of federal law that requires military and overseas ballots go out 45 days before the general election. A denial could affect the earlier primary ruling. Election officials, in seeking the waiver, have vowed to use express mail and email to speed up ballot delivery and extend the deadline for military ballots.
Martins also attacked Suozzi, who opposed the Dec. 6 vote.
“It is disappointing Tom Suozzi is so adamant about disenfranchising our military voters,” Martins said Sunday. “When our friends and neighbors volunteer to serve our great country, they don’t give up their right to vote, period. It’s time Tom Suozzi stopped making excuses and let the military voters exercise their right they risk their lives to defend.”
Kim Devlin, Suozzi’s senior campaign adviser, said Sunday: “Since it has been established that hundreds of thousands of voters will not vote in a December special election, and that the BOE has assured that all overseas ballots will be mailed and collected in time for the November election, Jack Martins’ latest excuse to not face his opponents and the voters has no merit.”
Pidot’s attorneys in court papers said Martins’ request for a later election “rings particularly hollow” because he sought to drag out the court fight to get on the ballot and Martins has no standing to seek a new general election because he did not win a primary election.
The New York City election board opposed Martins’ request for a Dec. 6 election, but its attorney Zachary Carter said the board would not oppose Martins’ request to rescind the order for the Oct. 6 primary.
Nicholas LaLota, Suffolk’s GOP election commissioner, took no position on Martins’ request for the Dec. 6 vote, but urged the court to move the Oct. 6 GOP primary to the state primary date of Sept. 13, saying it would save money, have the least impact on military voters and end the need for a special December election.