An investigation is underway into thousands of duplicate signatures that reportedly ended up on nominating petitions to get Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin on a third-party ballot line in the New York governor’s race.
Albany County District Attorney David Soares and the state Board of Elections are focused on John Haggerty Jr., a longtime Republican operative, the New York Post reports.
Nearly 13,000 signatures submitted by Haggerty to get Zeldin on the Independence Party line in the general election in November 2022 were later thrown out.
The Board of Elections determined that not only were some signatures invalid, nearly 11,000 of them were photocopies of other, original signatures from the same petitions, according to the Albany Times Union.
That determination left Zeldin, who represents the state’s 1st Congressional District covering eastern Long Island, short of the 45,000 signatures needed to get his name on the third party line.
Haggerty previously served more than a year in prison after being convicted of money laundering and grand larceny for stealing nearly $750,000 from former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s 2009 reelection campaign.
Zeldin’s petitions were challenged by the New York Libertarian Party, who issued a statement in July 2022 chastising the apparently fraudulent effort.
"Republicans talk a lot about election integrity, 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," said Andrew Kolstee, secretary of the Libertarian Party.
In a statement to the New York Post, a spokesman for Zeldin’s campaign denied making any photo copies and attributed the error to the “massive” workload handled by volunteers.
Zeldin is a staunch supporter of former President Trump and was among the 147 Republicans in Congress who voted against certifying the results of the 2020 presidential election.
In December 2020, while Trump was contesting the results of the election, Zeldin put out a tweet saying ballot integrity “always matters.”
“Elections are not error proof or tamper proof. Many people believe ballot integrity doesn't matter if your candidate wins," he said.
"It doesn't work like that. Ballot integrity ALWAYS matters regardless of the circumstances & regardless of whether the issue impacts one vote or thousands.”
Zeldin’s political allies have called the investigation politically motivated to boost support for his Democratic opponent, Gov. Kathy Hochul.
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