Congress election to stay in November, judge rules

Congress election to stay in November, judge rules

The 3rd Congressional District’s general election will proceed as planned on Nov. 8 after a federal judge on Tuesday rejected Republican Jack Martins’ request to delay it a month.

Judge Frederick J. Scullin’s ruling in Albany federal court means only a month will separate the general election and an Oct. 6 Republican primary between Martins and Philip Pidot. The winner will face Democrat Tom Suozzi.

Martins, an Old Westbury state senator, wanted the election moved to Dec. 6 because the Nov. 8 date would violate the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act’s requirement that ballots be mailed to overseas military voters at least 45 days before the election.

But Scullin ruled that wasn’t necessary because the U.S. Department of Defense’s Federal Voting Assistance Program granted the state Board of Elections a waiver on Monday exempting it from that law.

The state plans to certify the Oct. 6 primary results by the next day if there’s a clear winner and deliver general election ballots by Oct. 8 electronically and through expedited mail.

Martins said the ruling didn’t make sense given that the Oct. 6 primary date was set to comply with the 45-day requirement.

“That the court took steps to protect the military’s right to vote in a primary election but not in the general election, where far more people will be affected, is equally unprecedented and, frankly, unfathomable,” Martins said in a statement Tuesday.

Martins filed papers Tuesday saying he plans to appeal the ruling in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in Manhattan.

The Board of Elections sent 246 overseas ballots for the GOP primary and says 1,012 will go out for the general election.

Martins argued having only 32 days before the general election would confuse those voters and prevent them from returning their ballots on time. The GOP candidate would also have less time than Suozzi to run a general election campaign, he argued.

The Reserve Officers Association supported Martins’ argument, saying in a friend-of-the-court brief that the quick turnaround would continue New York’s pattern of noncompliance with the voting law.

“As a leading state in the number of absentee ballots sent to military members and overseas voters, New York should be setting an example to the rest of the country on not only how to effectively transmit ballots to UOCAVA voters, but on the supreme importance of making sure their votes count,” lawyers for the group wrote.

But the state Board of Elections argued in court filings that a Dec. 6 general election would reduce voter turnout by as many as 284,000 people and force the state to foot the bill for an extra election.

Delaying the vote “would do great harm, as a practical matter disenfranchising tens of thousands who would not participate in a separately scheduled later election,” Brian Quail, a lawyer for the board, wrote in a court filing.

Pidot praised Tuesday’s ruling, saying, “It’s full steam ahead to Oct. 6.” He won the right to contest the primary in a months-long legal battle after surviving Martins’ attempt to get him off the ballot.

“I am grateful to the court and to everyone who joined me in standing up to the machine bullying that has come to characterize politics on Long Island for far too long,” Pidot said in a statement.

Suozzi, Pidot and the Libertarian candidate, Michael McDermott, blasted Martins last week for seeking the delay, saying he was trying to win the election in court and depress turnout to his advantage. 

A Martins spokesman called the attacks an excuse for other candidates not to defend military voting rights.

“I’m not sure how many courts need to tell Jack Martins that the way to get elected to Congress is to debate the issues with your opponents in front of voters,” Suozzi’s campaign manager Mike Florio said in a statement Tuesday.

Pidot, a Glen Cove fraud investigator and hardline conservative, faces a large disadvantage in the October primary despite having spent four months in court to get it.

A poll released by Martins’ campaign shows Martins leading with 43 percent to Pidot’s 9 percent, with about half of the electorate undecided. 

But Pidot’s campaign contends those numbers are underwhelming for Martins considering his advantages when it comes to money and name recognition.

Martins has support from local Republican committees in the district stretching from northeast Queens to northwest Suffolk County and also has the Conservative and Reform lines on the general election ballot.

By Noah Manskar

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