Federal officials: Voters' rights violated in NY House race

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UTICA, N.Y. — The U.S. Department of Justice said county officials in central New York who failed to process thousands of registration applications and improperly rejected affidavit ballots violated the rights of voters in a congressional election won by Republican Rep. Claudia Tenney by 109 votes.

A top Justice Department official notified Oneida County on Tuesday that the federal government plans to sue over violations that disenfranchised voters if a settlement is not reached.

The notice alleges the county's Board of Elections violated the National Voter Registration Act and the Help America Vote Act, according to a copy of the letter reviewed by Syracuse.com.

Problems with the 22nd District election in November came to light during a three-month legal battle over ballots. State Supreme Court Justice Scott DelConte ruled Feb. 5 that Tenney defeated Democratic incumbent Anthony Brindisi by 109 votes in the nation’s last undecided congressional race.

The Justice Department review confirmed Oneida County failed to process at least 2,400 voter registration applications that had been submitted in time for the election through the state Department of Motor Vehicles.

The review also found county election officials improperly rejected hundreds of affidavit ballots submitted at polling sites, according to the letter.

A Justice Department spokesperson would not comment on the letter Thursday.

The department’s letter to Oneida County Attorney Peter Rayhill offered to negotiate a settlement before any lawsuit is filed. Such legal settlements typically involve fines and a requirement for corrective actions, but not a new election.

Rayhill told Syracuse.com that the county intends to co-operate with federal lawyers to work out a settlement.

The Associated Press