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Jack Martins seeks to delay Congress election until Dec. 6

State Sen. Jack Martins, facing an unexpected Oct.

State Sen. Jack Martins, facing an unexpected Oct. 6 GOP congressional primary, on Friday, Aug. 19, 2016, asked a federal court in Syracuse to put off the general election for the Third District until Dec. 6. Credit: Howard Schnapp

State Sen. Jack Martins, facing an unexpected Oct. 6 Republican congressional primary, on Friday asked a federal court in Syracuse to put off the general election for the 3rd District until Dec. 6, nearly a month after the presidential election.

Martins said in papers filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District that if the court declines to move the election, the judge should reconsider his order for the Oct. 6 primary.

Martins’ legal move comes after U.S. District Court Judge Frederick Scullin on Wednesday ordered the special primary after state courts had ruled that GOP challenger Philip Pidot had more than the minimum 1,250 signatures to qualify for the ballot. State courts said prolonged legal proceedings had left too little time for elections officials to hold the primary on June 28, with other congressional primaries.

“The October primary election date leaves 32 days for a general election, disenfranchising the military voters and even potentially the permanent absentee voters,” said. E. O’Brien Murray, Martins’ spokesman.

“The military voters and all other voters in New York’s 3rd Congressional deserve the same consideration, 50 days or more in the general election, as the judge provided for the primary voters,” Murray said.

Should Martins win in court, it would likely turn the race to fill the seat of retiring Democratic Rep. Steve Israel from a high turnout contest that typically favors Democrats to a race that could draw as little as 10 percent turnout.

Pidot said Martins “will stop at nothing to rob voters of their democratic choice. It’s time to give the lawyers a rest and face the music.”

In court papers, Martins’ attorney cited a 1982 precedent in which a three-judge panel moved the election date for two House seats from Nov. 2 to Nov. 30 to permit the state to redraw congressional lines to comply with the Voting Rights Act.

The attorney said that if Scullin doesn’t set a new election date, the Oct. 6 primary, only one month before Election Day, “is certain to cause voter confusion and hardship” and potential mix-ups in the mails of military ballots.

They also called the Oct. 6 primary date unfair. They said Democrat Thomas Suozzi will have had 100 days to campaign since he won his party’s nomination on June 28, while Martins will be left as a “drastic disadvantage” with only 32 days to mount a general election campaign. They also said they would be unfairly restricted to using donations for the primary until that contest is over.

Kim Devlin, senior adviser for Suozzi, criticized Martins for “wasting millions of taxpayers’ dollars with his petty political games and trying to litigate his way into Congress. This is nothing more than a pathetic attempt to distract voters from his disastrous record of raising property taxes, defending Dean Skelos and support for Donald Trump.”

Murray discounted Pidot’s attack, calling him “a fringe candidate who waited 30 days to file his appeal and brought the problems on himself.” Suozzi, he said, is “in the middle of his own political fight to defend fraudulent signatures and voters who have died.”

Suozzi’s petitions for a “Fix Washington” ballot line were approved by the state Board of Elections in Albany. Martins has filed suit in state Supreme Court in Mineola to disallow Suozzi’s petitions based on alleged fraud.

A state board hearing on petitions of Libertarian candidate Michael McDermott, which also have been challenged by Martins, is set for Monday.

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