May 4—SYRACUSE — A New York State Supreme Court justice in Syracuse has rejected an attempt by groups of Republican party voters and officials, in seven counties across the state, including Niagara County, to remove Working Families Party (WFP) candidates from this year's primary and general election ballots.
The ruling, by Justice Scott Delconte, was delivered Friday night and released to the public on Monday. Delconte ruled that the WFP had "acted in accordance with Executive Order 202.7", issued by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. The pandemic-related executive order allowed for the electronic filing of the authorization documents for election petitions and the copying of accompanying notary signatures.
Sharon Cromwell, deputy state director of the New York Working Families Party, hailed the ruling.
"The New York State Supreme Court confirmed what we knew all along, that the GOP's case doesn't stand up to the facts," Cromwell said. "This whole process is a shameless attempt to suppress the voice of voters and interfere with the democratic process. Republicans know that they can't win at the ballot box, so they're simply wasting time and money in the courts."
The Republican voters and officials who filed the suits against the WFP and its candidates have until next Monday to file an appeal.
The lawsuits, filed in Niagara, Albany, Onondaga, Monroe, Rensselaer, Saratoga and Schenectady counties were consolidated into a single action in the Onondaga County court.
When lawsuits raising identical issues are filed in multiple different locations, courts will frequently seek to combine the cases rather than have multiple judges issue their own unique rulings on the matters.
Richard Andres, the Niagara County Republican Committee chairman, had confirmed when the lawsuit was filed here that it was part of a broad GOP effort. The Albany Times Union reported that "local Republicans in at least three counties have also tried to co-opt the WFP line — a move they made after other minor party lines they relied on to boost their voting totals in elections were booted from the ballot under new state election thresholds."
The legal action began in Niagara County with an order to show cause, filed by a group of self-identified "proud Republicans." The 10 individuals alleged that the endorsed Working Families Party candidates for North Tonawanda mayor, four North Tonawanda council seats, the Lockport 5th Ward alderperson, three Niagara Falls City Council openings, 10 Niagara County Legislature seats, two Town of Niagara Council seats and a Lewiston Council post, failed to properly authenticate their nominating petitions.
All of the Working Families Party candidates targeted by the show cause order are also the Niagara County Democratic Committee's endorsed candidates in their respective races.
The Niagara County Democratic Committee also labeled the legal action an attempt by the county GOP as "voter suppression."
The lawsuit sought to bar local election commissioners from placing the Working Families candidates on the ballot in the June primary election and November general election. Votes on minor party lines can often provide the margin of victory in closely contested elections, so candidates typically seek to run on those lines in addition to those of the major parties.
The GOP complaint alleged that authorization certificates, filed by the Working Families Party as part of each candidate's required nominating petitions, were "insufficient, false, fraudulent, and invalid" because they did not conform to provisions of New York's election laws. Specifically, the complaint charged that the candidate authorizations were not "genuine documents" because they were filed electronically with the board of elections.
The legal filing also claimed that signatures on the submitted documents were "clipped from other documents and pasted' into original documents.