The New York Times

January 27, 2008


G.O.P. Move to Change State Ballots Stirs Debate




A legal fight could be looming over an effort by the state’s Republican Party to drop three candidates from the ballot for the Feb. 5 presidential primary. Critics, including some party insiders, contend that the move is intended to give the state party’s favored candidate, Rudolph W. Giuliani, better name display at the polls, a charge the Republicans deny.


On Friday, Republican staff members of the State Board of Elections sent amended ballot lists to county election boards with the names of Alan Keyes, Duncan Hunter and Fred D. Thompson removed and Mr. Giuliani’s name moved up from fourth to second, behind Ron Paul. The order was selected earlier by a random drawing.


Under the amended ballot, Mr. Giuliani would be followed by Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee and John McCain. Matthew Walter, a spokesman for the New York Republican State Committee, said the names were dropped because Mr. Keyes did not submit the required list of delegates and Mr. Hunter and Mr. Thompson were no longer in the race.


The Republicans say that if the names are not removed, thousands of voters could be disenfranchised. The developing dispute was reported in Newsday and The Daily News on Saturday.


At the issue’s core is whether the Republicans could unilaterally remove the names without a vote of the full state board. The board comprises two Democrats and two Republicans, and lawyers for each side disagreed over the interpretation of the statute.


After the commissioners on the New York City Board of Elections deadlocked in a 4-to-4 vote along party lines on Friday, the board’s staff decided against changing the city’s ballots, saying it would be too labor-intensive and time-consuming and could endanger its ability to manage the primary.


Frederic M. Umane, the ranking Republican commissioner on the city board, disagreed. “It would be a challenge, and it would have been easier with two days’ notice, but it’s not hard to do,” he said. He cited a case several years ago in which a Democrat’s name was removed the night before an election in Brooklyn.


Todd Valentine, the state board’s Republican co-executive director, said the city staff’s decision could prompt legal action.


“We’re weighing our options at this point,” Mr. Valentine said.


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