The fight for the date of the Third Congressional District’s general election heads to federal court on an expedited appeal Wednesday, Sept. 14, following the denial by an appeals court of Senator Jack M. Martins’ request to move the election date to December.
Martins, who is running for retiring Congressman Steve Israel’s seat against fellow GOP candidate Philip Pidot, Libertarian Michael McDermott and Democrat Tom Suozzi, said having the election in November is too close to the court-ordered Republican primary of Oct. 6. Martins said having the two elections so close together fails to give adequate time to get ballots out to active-duty military and absentee voters.
“This has been about protecting the rights of military and absentee voters,” said E. O’Brien Murray, a spokesman from Martins’ campaign. Murray added that absentee ballots couldn’t be opened until a week after the election, meaning that primary election results wouldn’t be certified until less than four weeks before voters head to the polls in November. “It doesn’t provide the opportunity to properly run the general election.”
Martins is asking that the date of the Third Congressional District general election be moved to December, and if that doesn’t happen that the primary be canceled altogether.
Pidot, a fraud investigator from Glen Cove, was not included on the primary ballot back in June, after Martins alleged that he had not gathered the required 1,250 valid signatures to get on the Republican line. A state Supreme Court justice ruled in June that Pidot did actually have the necessary signatures to qualify for the ballot, but the timing of his appeal was too late to print ballots to include him in the primary.
In August, a federal judge ordered a special primary be held on Thursday, Oct. 6, 32 days before the Nov. 8 general election. Martins said the close proximity of the dates will hinder active-duty military personnel serving overseas from voting, as the federal MOVE Act requires that states send absentee ballots to active-duty military personnel and their family members at least 45 days before the election.
“Keeping the general election on Nov. 8 would violate federal law and compromise military personnel’s ability to vote by providing only 32 days at the earliest to mail absentee ballots,” Martins said in a statement on his website. “Moving the general election to Dec. 6 is necessary to comply with federal law and ensure that our servicemen and women, as well as their families, are able to cast their votes and have them counted.”
Martins also requested a stop on the mailing out of absentee ballots for the primary, a request that was denied by the appeals court.
Pidot called Martins’ attempts to move the general election or block the primary an attempt to “manipulate the courts and democratic process…for their own selfish and desperate reasons.”
“What we are witnessing, almost daily, is the unraveling of [a] political machine candidate who actually believed he could subvert the democratic process to his own benefit,” said Pidot. “Mr. Martins truly thought he was entitled to a free ride in the primary, and now he actually thinks a federal court is going to move Election Day for his convenience. Here before us is the arrogance of power on almost shocking display.”
Kim Devlin, strategist for Suozzi’s campaign, said, “The Department of Defense, The New York State Board of Elections and a U.S. District Court Judge have all ruled that every single vote from the military will be counted but it seems Jack Martins thinks he knows better. It is obvious that Martins believes he can’t beat Tom Suozzi fair and square so while he tries to turn this campaign into a legal quagmire, Tom will be out talking to people about the important issues that affect their lives.”