Senator Calls For Investigation Of Photocopied Zeldin Signatures
Democratic state Sen. Zellnor Myrie is calling for a formal investigation into photocopied election petitions aiming to get Republican gubernatorial candidate Lee Zeldin another line on the November election ballot.
Myrie, D-Brooklyn, last week filed a complaint with the Albany County District Attorney David Soares asking for an investigation into a New York Times report that Zeldin’s campaign submitted more than 11,000 photocopied petition signatures in order to appear on the Independence Party line in November. Some of those photocopied signatures, according to the New York Times, came from Chautauqua County.
The state Board of Elections has already ruled Zeldin didn’t have enough valid signatures to run on the Independence Party line after many of the signatures were challenged by Libertarian Party officials. One objector, Andrew Kolstee, is a Jamestown resident who served as Southwestern New York area field director for the Gary Johnson campaign in 2016 for president and Western New York deputy field director for the Larry Sharpe campaign for governor. Since 2015, he has been an active member of the State Committee of the Libertarian Party of New York in various forms. From 2017 to 2019, he served as Communications Director and in 2020, he was elected Secretary.
“Republicans talk a lot about election integrity,” said Kolstee in a mid-July news release, “but the Zeldin campaign attempted to fly under the radar and submit over 11,000 fraudulent signatures in an attempt to get a third line on the ballot, while New York’s oppressive ballot access laws, which were changed in 2020 to prevent third parties from getting on the ballot, prevent voter choice. One can only determine if a petition sheet is a photocopy if the physical petition sheets are examined in person. The Zeldin campaign’s attempt to defraud the electorate and pose as an independent campaign by filing thousands of photocopied signatures is a slap in the face to New York State voters and the election process.”
Myrie’s complaint states pages of valid signatures were photocopied and assigned different page numbers in order to create the appearance the pages contained separate, valid signatures. He is asking Soares to investigate who photocopied the pages and to find out if any of the five candidates listed on the petitions participated. The Brooklyn Democrat listed possible criminal charges of second-degree forgery, second-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument, criminal possession of a forged instrument, criminal simulation, second-degree tampering with public records, first-degree tampering with public records, first- and second-degree offering a false instrument for filing and misconduct in relation to petitions as possible charges.
“What is relevant to, and must be investigated by, the Albany County District Attorney, however, is not that the petition was invalid, but rather why the petition was invalid,” Myrie wrote in his letter to Soares. “Simply stated, the Petition contained a litany of fabricated sheets; and the individuals who caused the petition to be filed with the (Board of Elections) were clearly aware of or involved in that fabrication.”
Larry Barmore, Chautauqua County clerk, was named in the New York Times article but has been accused of no wrongdoing. Barmore told The Post-Journal last week that he passed petitions around during a lunch break and then gave the sheets to Nacole Ellis, county Republican Party chairwoman. Ellis then gave the petitions to a representative of the Zeldin campaign. None of the documentation was filed in Chautauqua County because the petitions were for statewide office.
“As to who made the copies, I wouldn’t even dare to render a guess,” Barmore said told The Post-Journal.
In addition to Myrie’s request for an investigation by Soares, the photocopied petitions have become a campaign issue for Gov. Kathy Hochul. Brian Lenzmeier, Hochul’s campaign manager, called on Zeldin to provide an explanation.
“We know the facts — thousands of invalid ballot signatures were submitted to get Zeldin on the Independence Party line,” Lenzmeier stated. “This is a serious offense that could result in multiple charges, including felonies. Lee Zeldin owes it to the voters to come clean about what happened.”
Thus far, the Zeldin campaign’s only response has been a statement made after the petitions were ruled invalid — and that statement denied any wrongdoing.
“In the final few days leading up to the filing deadline, tens of thousands of signatures from all over the state had to be immediately turned into the Board of Elections,” Katie Vincentz, a Zeldin spokeswoman, said in a release to the Albany Times-Union after the Independence Party petitions were ruled invalid. “While the Zeldin for New York campaign is not aware of photocopies, we certainly didn’t make any photocopies.”
— Gregory Bacon contributed to this report.