A Tale of Two Decisions

Judge rules that Rebecca Seawright is back on the primary ballot and Dan Quart's opponent is off

11 May 2020 | 11:18

A state Supreme Court judge last week sided with two incumbent assembly members representing the Upper East Side in separate suits involving the city Board of Elections to decide who will appear on the primary ballot come June.

On Friday, Manhattan Supreme Court Judge Carol Edmead reversed decisions by the city Board of Elections in both decisions: reinstating Assembly Member Rebecca Seawright to the Democratic Party and Working Families lines, and disqualifying Assembly Member Dan Quart’s primary opponent from the race.

In April, the Board of Elections had voted to unanimously to remove Seawright, who has represented the 76th Assembly District since 2015, from the ballot after she failed to include cover sheets with her ballot petitions. Seawright argued that despite experiencing “COVID-like” symptoms during the petitioning period in March, she successfully sent in all of the needed signatures.

The judge agreed with Seawright’s argument, saying that the assembly member “rectified her errors” by eventually submitted the needed documentation to the board. Edmead went on that the “untimely submissions do not constitute an egregious failure to comply with Election Law requirements.” She also said that there was no effort by Seawright to defraud or mislead the public by committing a clerical error.

"Shameful Pandemic Politics"

Additionally, Edmead acknowledged that Seawright’s mistake came during an unprecedented time.

“The Court is also not inclined to penalize Seawright for committing clerical errors while an unprecedented and catastrophic health crisis was enveloping the state,” Edmead wrote in her opinion.

In closing, Edmead granted Seawright’s request to validate her petitions.

“I will continue to fight on behalf of all of my constituents on the Upper East Side, Yorkville, and Roosevelt Island,” said Seawright in a statement following the decision. “It is time to end shameful pandemic politics.”

Meanwhile, Seawright’s Republican opponent, 62-year-old doorman Louis Puliafito, who was a respondent on the suit, has already appealed Edmead’s decision, according to the New York Post.

Puliafito’s attorney, Lawrence Mandelker, told the Post that Edmead “was completely wrong on the law.”

Residency Issue

In the second decision Edmead filed Friday, the judge removed 22-year-old Cameron Koffman from the 73rd District’s Democratic primary ballot, making way for Quart’s re-election to the Assembly.

In this suit, Quart questioned Koffman’s ability to run for office in New York due to the fact that while he attended Yale University, of which he is a recent graduate, Koffman registered to vote and voted in Connecticut elections. According to the state’s election requirements, a candidate must be a resident of New York for the five years leading up to an election. Quart argued that by voting in Connecticut, Koffman gave up his claim to New York residency.

Koffman had argued that he never viewed himself as a Connecticut resident, and maintained his New York mailing address while in school. He added that he also paid taxes in New York, served jury duty here and maintained other ties to the community.

Although the judge said Koffman offered a compelling argument, ultimately, it was not a persuasive one.

“By taking the affirmative steps of registering to vote in Connecticut and casting votes there in 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018, Mr. Koffman effectively chose the state of Connecticut as his electoral residence,” Edmead wrote in her decision.

“The Court is cognizant of the fact that many New Yorkers signed the petition in support of Mr. Koffman's candidacy,” she continued. “However, the salient issue is whether Mr. Koffman is qualified to be a candidate in accordance with New York State Constitution. In light of the discussion above, the Court finds that Mr. Koffman is not.”

Quart said Edmead’s decision to remove his opponent was not surprising.

“From the very beginning we’ve been saying the same thing: Cameron Koffman, having voted in Connecticut as recently as 2018, does not qualify to run for office in New York,” he said Friday. “Yet, when Koffman refused to follow the rules, he made this race about ensuring that the wealthy and the well-connected abide by the same laws as the rest of us. I was pleased to see Judge Edmead finally put this matter to rest.”

Koffman is appealing Edmead’s decision, which is expected to be examined Tuesday by the First Department of the New York Appellate Division.

“While we were disappointed in today’s ruling by Judge Edmead in Manhattan Supreme Court disenfranchising students in their right to vote, this election is far from over,” said Koffman.

“The Court is ... not inclined to penalize Seawright for committing clerical errors while an unprecedented and catastrophic health crisis was enveloping the state.” Manhattan Supreme Court Judge Carol Edmead