ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — A state judge has removed 3,700 names from the rolls of Westchester County’s Independence Party after complaints from the party chairman that they were allies of Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino and improperly changed affiliations last year to ensure he’d be re-elected as county executive.
State Supreme Court Justice Robert DiBella’s decision Monday echoed a ruling by a midlevel state court that the party chairman has legal authority to cancel enrollments of those found “not in sympathy with the party’s principles.” The Appellate Division had concluded that the canceled enrollments were “just.”
Astorino’s spokeswoman said the ruling sets “a dangerous legal precedent for the democratic process in New York.”
The party filed a separate federal fraud lawsuit last year against Astorino and 91 other defendants, including the county Board of Elections and the county Republican Party. It claimed Astorino’s friends, families and associates fraudulently switched from Republican to Independence voter registrations, even backdating some documents, in an attempt to give him the minor party ballot line.
Among the names removed from the Independence Party rolls was Astorino’s father.
Astorino was re-elected county executive last year on the Republican and Conservative ballot lines over Democrat Noam Bramson, the New Rochelle mayor, who also had the Independence and Working Families ballot lines.
Interviewed Tuesday on Talk 1300 Radio, Astorino called the federal lawsuit against him “a complete waste of time and money.” He said the Independence Party wanted him to provide no-show jobs to get its endorsement, but he refused.
Astorino spokeswoman Jessica Proud said she didn’t know how many of the 3,700 removed registrations had been Republicans and allies of Astorino.
Peter Tilem, an attorney for the Independence Party, said Astorino was the one trying to “subvert the democratic process.”
“As he campaigns for governor, Rob Astorino routinely disavows the Independence Party as a ‘corrupt’ organization,” Tilem said. “But less than one year ago, he was not only seeking the party nomination, he was leading a corrupt operation to hijack the party rolls.”
Tilem, in a letter dated Monday, asked Westchester County District Attorney Janet DiFiore to investigate. A spokesman for DiFiore said Tuesday they hadn’t yet seen the letter and declined to comment.
Cuomo has accepted the Independence Party’s nomination for governor.