File photo: Denise Civiletti

Suffolk’s Green Party is calling for an end to “fusion voting” in New York State and for changes in the way the county boards of election are structured and managed.

Green Party voters in Riverhead and Southold earlier this year were duped into signing nominating petitions for registered Republican judicial candidates seeking the Green Party ballot line, according to Suffolk District Attorney Tim Sini.

Green Party officials are calling on state lawmakers to reform the state election law to ban candidates from running on multiple party lines — a practice known as “fusion voting.”

“New York State is one of only eight states that allows candidates to run on multiple party lines,” the Green Party said in a press release Wednesday night.

That opportunity provides an incentive for candidates and their supporters to attempt to claim the lines of other parties with or without the knowledge of those other parties, and potentially to seek those lines in unethical or illegal ways, according to the Green Party of Suffolk.

“While we are happy DA Timothy Sini’s office investigated the complaints we made earlier this year,” said Pauline Salotti, chairwoman of the Green Party of Suffolk, “to prevent this from happening in the future, New York State needs to end fusion voting.”

The party is also calling for a major change to how the county board of elections is constituted and managed.

Current law allows Democratic and Republican party committees to name the two elections commissioners in the county — one Democrat and one Republican. The commissioners in turn, hire the clerks, machine technicians, and other employees as political appointments with equal representation of both parties on the board’s staff.

The number of voters enrolled in minor parties and voters enrolled in no party (“blanks”) taken together, is greater than the number of voters enrolled in either the Republican or Democratic party, so allowing the board of elections to be run by the Democratic and Republican parties is allowing it to function “as a partisan agency with its employees beholden to the two major parties for their jobs,” according to Salotti.

Voters registered with minor parties and with no party must receive representation on the Suffolk BOE, she said.

At a minimum, Suffolk County should immediately add a commissioner, as allowed by election law, chosen by and representative of the minor parties. The need for such representation is shown by the fact that two of those accused of petition fraud are employees of the Suffolk County Board of Elections, Salotti said.

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Denise Civiletti
Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.