Early voting takes place at the Great Neck House on...

Early voting takes place at the Great Neck House on Nov. 2, 2023, in Great Neck. Credit: Dawn McCormick

Suffolk County and Hempstead Town have followed Nassau County in suing Gov. Kathy Hochul and New York State over a change that will move most local elections to even years beginning in 2026.

Suffolk, Hempstead and plaintiffs Jason Ashlaw, Joann Myers, Tanner Richards, Steven Gellar, Eugene Cella and Robert Matarazzo filed the complaint in upstate Jefferson County on April 19, about two weeks after Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman filed a similar lawsuit. Ashlaw, Myers and Richards live in Jefferson County, Gellar and Cella live in Suffolk, and Matarazzo lives in Nassau.

Republicans statewide have criticized the change, saying voters will ignore local issues when local elections coincide with federal and state elections. Democrats say local elections should coincide with gubernatorial and presidential contests when turnout is highest. Democrats historically have better turnout during gubernatorial and, particularly, presidential years.

The lawsuit argues that the change violates the New York constitution and seeks to block the law, which was signed by the governor last year.

“Such consolidation increases the burdens associated with casting a vote, fundraising, and generating support for candidates, among other essential campaigning activities, while contributing to voter fatigue due to higher numbers of issues and/or candidates on the ballot,” the complaint states. “Meanwhile, the purported benefits of the Even Year Election Law — such increased voter turnout and costs savings — are entirely illusory.”

Plaintiff attorney Bennet Moskowitz of the national firm Troutman Pepper Hamilton Sanders LLP did not respond to a request for comment.

It is not clear why the lawsuit was filed in Jefferson County. Suffolk Democratic Committee spokesman Keith Davies said the Republican-controlled municipalities were “district shopping for a Republican judge because they can’t win in an unbiased arena.” Suffolk GOP chairman Jesse Garcia in response said, “Democrats can’t win at the ballot box, so they continue to try and change the rules of the game.”

Suffolk County spokesman Mike Martino declined to comment on the pending legislation, but said the attorneys will be paid $700 per hour, which will be split among the plaintiffs. Hempstead Town spokesman Brian Devine called the law change “an attempt by the governor to wrest local control of government" from town residents.

Hochul spokesman Gordon Tepper declined to comment, citing the pending litigation, but pointed to a December news release in which the governor said the law will make it easier to vote. The governor noted that voter participation is substantially higher in even-year elections, with 65% of eligible New York voters casting a ballot in 2020 compared with 25% in 2021.

The Suffolk County Legislature during its April 9 general meeting voted 13-5 to support the lawsuit over objections from most of its Democratic members.

“I find it difficult to understand how we're really even considering a vote to use taxpayer dollars to stop … something that we know will increase voter turnout and engagement,” said Legis. Rebecca Sanin (D-Huntington Station). “I really think that abysmal turnout in odd years shows us that we need to confront this reality, that we really need to do something different, and that we're not engaging our electorate appropriately.”

Legis. Anthony Piccirillo (R-Holtsville) countered that local problems and representatives would be overshadowed by national issues such as the war in Ukraine, abortion and gun control.

“No one would care … to vote for county legislators that would probably be on the end of a 50- or 60-person ballot when those issues are front and center,” he said.

A Newsday analysis shows the number of referees and umpires has declined 25.2% in Nassau and 18.1% in Suffolk since 2011-12. Officials and administrators say the main reason is spectator behavior. NewsdayTV's Carissa Kellman reports. Credit: Newsday Staff

Updated now A Newsday analysis shows the number of referees and umpires has declined 25.2% in Nassau and 18.1% in Suffolk since 2011-12. Officials and administrators say the main reason is spectator behavior. NewsdayTV's Carissa Kellman reports.

A Newsday analysis shows the number of referees and umpires has declined 25.2% in Nassau and 18.1% in Suffolk since 2011-12. Officials and administrators say the main reason is spectator behavior. NewsdayTV's Carissa Kellman reports. Credit: Newsday Staff

Updated now A Newsday analysis shows the number of referees and umpires has declined 25.2% in Nassau and 18.1% in Suffolk since 2011-12. Officials and administrators say the main reason is spectator behavior. NewsdayTV's Carissa Kellman reports.

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