SYRACUSE, NY (WRVO) – Negotiations continue between Oneida County and the U.S. Department of Justice over a settlement agreement, after the Justice Department said it was suing the county for voter disenfranchisement in last year’s congressional race between Claudia Tenney and Anthony Brindisi. The county may be limited in what it can do.
In February, Tenney was declared the winner of the tightly close race, by only 109 votes. Court proceedings after the election found that Oneida County failed to process more than 2,400 voter registration applications that were filed on time through the state DMV website. The DOJ said that violated federal law.
Oneida County Attorney Peter Rayhill said the county and DOJ’s goals are the same, to make sure the rights of citizens are protected. Rather than a financial penalty, Rayhill said the federal government is looking for compliance. But what compliance will look like is still anyone’s guess.
The county is increasing the staff and salaries at the Board of Elections. New commissioners were appointed by the Republican and Democratic parties. But Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente said he doesn’t oversee the county Board of Elections.
“It’s run through the state system,” Picente said. “I think DOJ also might want to look in the other direction, before they tell us what needs to be fixed.”
Rep. Tenney called the DOJ negotiations a shakedown and a political move. She said in January, the county Board of Elections registered the 2,400 voters that were left out, and those that cast an affidavit ballot, were counted.
“I think they went above and beyond, and there is no actual claim at this point,” Tenney said. “I’m really curious why they’re even pursing it, other than I think possibly my opponent wants to cast doubt on my election and maybe say the only reason she won was because rights were violated, when the opposite is true.”
In a statement, Brindisi said Tenney’s claims are without merit and disingenuous. He’s glad DOJ and Oneida County are working towards a resolution, so there isn’t another massive disenfranchisement of voters.