BALLSTON SPA — The Saratoga County Republican Committee’s new leader is involved in a new fight.
Former vice chairman Scott Kingsley was elected as an interim replacement for five-year leader Carl Zeilman — a move placing Kingsley at the helm of party campaign efforts and as a point man for the committee’s involvement in a collective-action lawsuit against recent election reforms.
Saratoga County GOP officials were among fewer than a dozen Republican and Conservative Party plaintiffs last week who filed a complaint against the state in an effort to repeal both a recent election law designed to speed up absentee-vote counting and a COVID-19-era executive order designed to ease absentee-ballot access. Officials involved in the lawsuit claim that such provisions violate the state constitution, lack relevance and enable fraud.
The New York Civil Liberties Union on Wednesday filed a motion to intervene in the case as defendants. The progressive legal advocacy group described the lawsuit brought by Republican and Conservative leaders as an attempt to undermine public confidence in elections and disenfranchise voters.
Should the case be appealed, it will likely go to the Appellate Division of state Supreme Court, a mid-level appeals court in the state system.
“We’ll get our messages out,” Kingsley said. “We’re fighting the lawsuit on sound legal principles and that’s what people do when they have disagreements. They go to court.”
Saratoga County’s GOP is the only Capital Region Republican committee directly involved with the lawsuit.
The first hearing was earlier this week. Oral arguments are scheduled for next Wednesday.
State Supreme Court Justice Dianne Freestone Dianne Freestone, a former vice chair for the Saratoga County Republican Committee, has presided over the case.
Recently elected Saratoga County Democratic Committee Chair Martha Devaney is confident that statewide Democratic Party leaders will take care of the case.
“I think as a Democratic chair for the county, I’m invested in making voting as accessible as possible,” said Devaney. “And the New York State party will pursue what action is appropriate to also defend that.”
In September, the New York State Republican Committee leaders lashed out after Democratic leaders sent out pre-filled absentee ballots to likely blue voters. State GOP Chair Nick Langworthy, a plaintiff in the new lawsuit, called the move a “dirty trick.”
A spate of absentee ballots would likely be returned or thrown out statement might the GOP win this legal battle.
Democrats last year unsuccessfully attempted to codify expanded absentee voting use into the State Constitution following a heavy offensive campaigned against the proposal from state Republicans.
Meanwhile, party officials this year are occupied with pulling out wins in a what conservative and progressive activists have called a high-stakes Congressional election year amid threats to democratic norms and economic stability.
The Saratoga County GOP for decades has dominated local races — nearly having full control of the Board of Supervisors and other local offices. Republican officials are tasked with pushing Liz Joy’s insurgent bid across the finish line against longtime Democratic U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko, D-Amsterdam, who won the county’s southern half by more than 9,000 votes two years ago.
A spokesperson for Tonko’s campaign called the county Republicans’ involvement in the lawsuit a reason to vote for Democrats and a reflection of “tactics the GOP employs at the national level to suppress the vote and label any election they lose as illegitimate.”
Joy, R-Rotterdam, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
A number of prominent Republicans across the country have long challenged the legitimacy of election laws, especially since former President Donald Trump lost to Joe Biden in the 2020 election.
“I think that we’re looking at elections for this year and next year and the year after,” Kingsley said. “And whatever decision that comes down this year, will have its impact in future years.”
Kingsley, who has served with the committee since 2001, isn’t seeking a permanent position as chair. In an effort to avoid interfering with public election efforts, the committee postponed permanent officer elections to January.
The chairman maintained that he entered the position to hold down the fort through this year’s midterms and prepare permanent leadership for 2023.