In a decision handed down today, U.S. District Court Judge Gary Sharpe is once again disappointed in how New York is handling its elections process when it comes to overseas and military voters.
Sharpe recently ordered that the state hold its congressional primary this year June 26 after state officials failed to reach an agreement on their own that would comply with the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment — MOVE – Act. The law requires that overseas and military voters get absentee ballots in enough time to participate in the general election.
New York is on track to have three primaries — the presidential one in April, the June congressional primary and the September primary for state offices. The MOVE Act only applies to federal elections. All members of the Senate and Assembly are up for election this fall. The Democrat-controlled Assembly wanted a June federal primary and the GOP-led Senate wanted it in August.
Sharpe’s ruling last month required the state Board of Elections to submit an elections calendar. However, the agency submitted two — one from the Democratic officials and one from Republicans.
“New York has once again demonstrated its intransigent refusal to comply with a federal mandate protecting the federal voting rights of those serving in the military overseas and those otherwise living on foreign soil,” Sharpe wrote in today’s decision.
The colorful Sharpe noted in his ruling that the submissions “remind the court of Strother Martin’s (Captain, Florida Road Prison 36) admonition to Paul Newman (Prisoner Luke): “What we’ve got here is a failure to communicate.” The dialogue is from the 1967 movie “Cool Hand Luke.”
The calendar submitted on behalf of Republican commissioners James Walsh and Gregory Peterson and Co-Executive Director Todd Valentine “erroneously interprets the prior order,” according to Sharpe. The submission states the Republicans have not interpreted Sharpe’s previous order requiring a calendar to mean he is requirement “wholesale changes to those statutes in an effort to cure any possible infirmities therein.” The submission is only a partial calendar that applies current electoral law to the new primary date but suggests the agency doesn’t have authority to recommend , the judge wrote.
The calendar submitted on behalf of Democratic commissioners Evelyn Aquila and Douglas Kellner and C0-Executive Director Robert Brehm has been modified based on the court’s prior order, said Sharpe, who chose that calendar. The number of days to circulate designating petitions for federal office would be 28 days instead of 38, beginning March 20. Senate and House candidates would need 25 percent fewer signatures on petitions. (This is a redistricting year, and proposed congressional districts have not been released yet.)
“The court is aware of the public and political outcry caused by its having selected a June primary date and it is also aware of the adverse economic consequences that may result if New York feels constrained to hold multiple primaries,” Sharpe wrote. “However, the court has not ordered multiple primaries and the public deserves to know the history of this litigation.”
New York has “disenfranchised” overseas and military voters since Congress passed the MOVE Act amendment more two years ago, Sharpe said.
This is Sharpe’s order: