SCHENECTADY & SARATOGA COUNTIES – Coordinated lawsuits by the state GOP Party, a movement to keep Democrats off the state Working Families Party line before the June primaries, targets a clear violation of election law, Schenectady County GOP Chairman Chris Koetzle said Monday.
Lawsuits in Schenectady and Saratoga counties, among others across the state, allege that the Working Families Party’s paperwork authorizing its candidates to appear on the ballot is invalid because it was electronically submitted and contains digitally copied signatures.
Its opposition countered that the electronic submission of documents with digitally copied and notarized signatures is allowed by the state as a safety measure during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The suit filed in Schenectady County targets 18 Democrats running with the endorsement of the WFP.
A lawsuit in Saratoga County names 12 Democrats.
“It appeared that they just photocopied a bunch of pages and filed it as it was just pro forma,” said Koetzle, arguing that original signatures are required.
“They apparently felt that they didn’t need or they didn’t care enough to get an original signature on the filing. It seems like a pretty clear case of not following election law,” he said.
Anita Thayer, secretary of the Capital District Working Families Party, noted an amendment to election laws and the governor’s executive order that changed some of the way notarizations can be done because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The Working Families Party fully complied with the election law, the regulations and the governor’s executive orders,” Thayer said by phone Monday night.
Thayer said the Working Families Party followed the exact process a year ago, without a challenge from anyone.
“Our position is that we did everything the law required, that the authorizations are proper, and this is the Republicans trying to make a political statement,” Thayer said. “They can’t win on the war of ideas, so they’re trying to find arcane solutions in the election law.”
Niskayuna’s Democratic candidates for supervisor and town board, supervisor candidate Jaime Lynn Puccioni, Councilwoman Denise Murphy McGraw, and Councilman John Della Ratta, denounced the lawsuits.
“This is voter suppression, plain and simple,” Puccioni said in a statement. “We have seen other pages of the Trump playbook used to keep young voters and people of color from exercising their right to vote in states across the South, and it is unfortunate that similar tactics are being used right here in Niskayuna. As a woman of color, I will not stand by and watch this take place in my community.”
“This is a frivolous lawsuit, designed to intimidate progressive candidates and deprive voters of their free choice”, said Della Ratta, a lawyer. “I have no doubt that the Court of Appeals will see this for what it is: a partisan ploy from the same people who created the fake and misleading ‘Pro-Nisky Party’ two years ago.”
“It is very disappointing to see my Republican friends and neighbors attacking measures put into place to make our communities safer during the COVID-19 crisis,” Murphy McGraw said. “I hope they will rethink this dangerous strategy.”
Koetzle rejected the voter suppression charge.
“Every time that they don’t follow the law, they want to somehow try to paint it as something different than what it is,” he said.
“I guess they have to ask themselves, and they have to be asked themselves, if the Republicans made this error, how would they react? It’s a rhetorical question, obviously, but, for their own credibility, maybe they need to answer that publicly.”