Problem petitions assembled at GOP Albany office
Chris Bragg is reporting for the Times Union state Republican Party headquarters in Albany served as the center of a questionable petitioning effort that has sparked a call for a criminal investigation. The petitioning focused on statewide Republican candidates looking to run on an additional ballot line in the November election by reviving the state Independence Party. This spring, the GOP attempted a massive petitioning effort, spearheaded in part by the Republican gubernatorial campaign of U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin of Long Island. A spokesperson for the state Republican Party, Jessica Proud, confirmed that signed Independence Party petitions were dropped at their party headquarters on State Street in Albany — and bound in volumes at the party office — before being submitted to the state Board of Elections by the May 31 deadline. Of the 52,000 photocopied signatures submitted, more than 11,000 were found by the Board of Elections to be xeroxed copies of other, original signatures within those same records. The copied pages were interspersed in a way that led some election experts to conclude their inclusion may have been intentional, possibly to inflate the number of signatures to exceed the new threshold of 45,000 valid signatures for state parties to gain ballot access. Proud claimed the inclusion of the copied signatures was inadvertent. She confirmed signatures were bound into volumes at GOP headquarters in Albany, where she said more than 20 volunteers, interns and staff were "frantically pulling together the hundreds of pages of signatures" at the last minute. Proud said, "...The mistake was acknowledged and the [Board of Elections] decision to rule the petitions invalid was accepted with no further action taken." She declined to identify the specific individuals involved in binding the petitions at GOP headquarters. In July, the state Board of Elections found that more than 12,800 signatures submitted were invalid, including more than 11,000 that had been photocopied. With about 39,000 remaining, Zeldin and other statewide Republicans fell roughly 6,000 short of gaining an Independence Party ballot line. In the past, the Independence line has helped sway some close elections for GOP candidates. Democratic state Sen. Zellnor Myrie, chair of the Senate's Elections Committee, recently wrote a letter asking Albany County District Attorney David Soares to investigate the Independence Party petitioning effort. "It is clear the Zeldin campaign perpetrated a fraud," Myrie alleged. Soares' office said they are reviewing the matter. Read the full story at times union [dot] com.