Two Queens borough president candidates have filed lawsuits against Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state’s Board of Elections over his executive order canceling the special election.
Candidates Jim Quinn and Dao Yin filed each filed lawsuits on Friday, May 8, in an effort to reinstate the June 23 special election.
“We strongly believe — and there is precedent with the federal judge’s ruling on the presidential primary — that the outright cancellation of an election is an unnecessary abuse of power that deprives voters of their rights,” said Quinn.
Quinn, former Queens Assistant District Attorney who’s running on a law and order platform, only filed petitions for the special election and not the primary, leaving him out of the race.
He said the Queens borough president’s special election should take place with absentee ballots.
“We support the governor’s executive order expanding absentee voting and believe this is a reasonable alternative that protects public health while still safeguarding democracy. In fact, the governor himself has adopted this solution for other elections occurring on the same date,” said Quinn. “The people of Queens have suffered tremendously as a result of this virus, but they should not have their rights stripped from them as well.”
The special election for Queens borough president was originally scheduled for March 24 by Mayor Bill de Blasio, but was later postponed until June 23 due to COVID-19. Cuomo then canceled it with an executive order on Friday, April 24, in an effort to fight the spread of COVID-19.
While the special election may be canceled, voters will still have the opportunity to vote for a Queens borough president come June 23, when they’ll vote in the primary leading up to November’s general election. Whoever wins the November election will take office on January 2021.
The candidates running for the position include Councilmen Costa Constantinides and Donovan Richards, former Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley and retired NYPD officer Anthony Miranda. Joann Ariola, the Queens County Republican Party chairperson, is running on the GOP line.
But before the special election was postponed in March, more than 2,500 residents cast their votes during early voting.
Yin, a Queens businessman, is concerned about the votes that were already collected and believes the move to cancel the special election is “illegal and invalid.”
“Our campaign has spent significant amounts of time and money reaching out to voters of all types, including Democrats, Republicans and independents,” said Yin. “For Governor Cuomo to change the rules of the game at the last minute in order to benefit his cronies is an outrage.”
Although Yin will still appear on the ballot, him and his campaign manager Aaron Foldenauer believe not having a special election leaves Queens’ 2.3 million residents without proper representation.
“The non-partisan special election is mandated by the New York City Charter, and Cuomo’s attempt to cancel it means that only registered Democrats would be able to vote in an upcoming primary for Queens borough president,” said Foldenauer. “This would disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of Queens voters and virtually ensure that a candidate supported by Cuomo’s political machine would prevail.”
While it is true the position has not been filled by an elected official since Melinda Katz moved on to Queens district attorney in January, Sharon Lee has taken it on as Acting Queens borough president.
Foldenauer said Cuomo’s decision compares to a previous case of former Congressman Michael Grimm in which a federal judge ordered him to set a special election after Grimm vacated the seat.
“Furthermore, this is a not a state election, but rather, is a city election and which was called by the mayor of New York City, Bill de Blasio,” said Foldenauer. “Governor Cuomo, as a state official, does not have the authority to cancel the special election for Queens borough president.”
De Blasio has yet to address the decision directly.
“Queens is in a crisis. Our hospitals are overwhelmed. This election on June 23 is the first chance for the people to actually have their voice heard as to how all residents of Queens can turn the corner on this crisis,” said Yin.
QNS reached out to Cuomo’s office for comment but did not receive a comment.