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Outlaw cross-party ballot endorsements in New York State

Town of Babylon Supervisor Rich Schaffer at a

Town of Babylon Supervisor Rich Schaffer at a Suffolk Legislative meeting inside the William H. Rogers Building in Hauppauge, Dec. 20, 2016. Credit: Steve Pfost

We expected too much.

Recently, we applauded Liuba Grechen Shirley, a Democratic activist from Amityville who wanted to make sure a Democrat was in the race for an open town board seat in Babylon. She announced her candidacy and began collecting petition signatures. And we applauded Claire McKeon, a Babylon Town worker who entered the race after Grechen Shirley. And when Town Supervisor and Suffolk County party chairman Rich Schaffer — who had been supporting Republican, Conservative and Independence candidate Anthony Manetta — said he would back McKeon in a Democratic primary, Grechen Shirley stepped down to clear the decks for McKeon. Like us, all Grechen Shirley wanted was a competitive election.

Except that McKeon never turned in her petitions, claiming she had been unable to collect the required 1,250 signatures. Given the formidable Babylon Democratic machine, that doesn’t pass the smell test. But the result was that Schaffer, a peerless dealmaker and cross-endorsement genius, got exactly what he wanted: The candidate he preferred all along is running unopposed.

This kind of blatant disregard for voters, even more egregious in a heavily Democratic town likely to support the party’s candidate, is a stark reminder of the need for state legislation to ban cross-party endorsements and give voters choices.