Our Views: Don’t reward Martins’ tactics
Posted: Thursday, August 25, 2016 10:37 am
If chutzpah and hypocrisy were an Olympic event, Jack Martins’ request to delay the general election for the 3rd Congressional District until Dec. 6 would be a safe bet to win gold.
Martins asked a federal court judge for the delay last week after another federal judge ruled that Martins had to face Glen Cove Republican Philip Pidot in a Republican primary to be held on Oct. 6.
The Old Westbury state senator is arguing that holding the general election on Nov. 8 would give military personnel serving overseas only 32 days to cast their absentee ballots rather than the 45 required under federal law.
This concern for counting every vote is commendable.
But coming from Martins, it is kind of like the man who kills his parents and asks the court for mercy because he is an orphan.
Martins, with the energetic backing of the Nassau County Republican Party, has for the last three months waged a relentless battle in state and federal court to keep Pidot from opposing him in a primary, an effort that would have disenfranchised thousands of registered Republicans who sought an alternative to the party-backed candidate.
This effort was led by John Ciampoli, an election lawyer who was named county attorney in 2009 to gerrymander the district maps of the Nassau County Legislature. Ciampoli was so successful in his effort that Republicans are virtually assured a majority in the Legislature until 2022 — despite Democrats’ lead in the county in registered voters.
And Martins’ effort to keep opponents off the ballot has not been limited to Pidot.
He has also challenged the petitions of Tom Suozzi, a former Nassau County executive who won a five-way Democratic primary and then filed petitions to also run on a Fix Washington line, and LIberterian nominee Michael McDermott. The state Board of Elections ruled last week that Suozzi had enough signatures to be on the Fix Washington line during the general election. A court earlier ruled on McDermott’s behalf.
Accommodating Martins’ newfound concern for counting every vote would mean the opening of polling stations a second time in two months, costing taxpayers millions of dollars. Two years ago, 1,012 people — about 0.2 percent of the district’s 485,000 active registered voters — cast ballots overseas. It is unknown how many of the 1,012 people needed more than the 32 days now available to cast their votes.
Apparently, Martins’ oft-expressed call for eliminating government waste does not extend to elections in which he is a candidate.
Moving the election to December would also mean asking election-fatigued voters to return to the polling booths in the middle of the holiday season, a month after a general election headlined by Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton.
During the last presidential election year in 2012, more than 270,000 people cast their votes in the 3rd Congressional District. Given the emotion generated by the Trump and Clinton campaigns the turnout could be even more.
Martins’ legal machinations would be asking everyone who votes in November to return to the polls in December. Or perhaps not.
In 2014, during a nonpresidential election season but with other races on the ballot, only 164,000 people voted in the 3rd Congressional District.
There is no way to predict how many people would actually vote on Dec. 6.
But short of a deadlock in the House after the November election, we can safely assume turnout will be far lower than if the election is held on Nov. 8.
Perhaps this is what Martins is hoping for.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the official campaign arm of Democrats in the House, released a poll last week showing that Suozzi led Martins by 16 percentage points.
Nearly 4 in 10 voters in the poll also said that Martins’ continued support of Trump makes them less likely to vote for Martins.
Martins has been carefully calibrating his support for Trump for months, presumably out of concern for his own election prospects. He said in May — before the Republican nomination was decided — he would support whoever was the Republican nominee, including Trump. In August, he said he would vote for Trump, but not endorse him, whatever that means.
Moving the election to December would allow Martins to distance himself further from Trump if Trump loses in the general election — and perhaps closer if he wins. And if off-year election results — which usually favor Republicans — are a guide, the lower turnout would also favor Martins.
All of which would reward Martins for his months of party-backed obstruction and penalize 3rd District voters.
We hope the court has the sense to see through this, grants a waiver on the overseas ballot law and keeps the election on Election Day.