NEW YORK NOW – As Rep. Lee Zeldin campaigns to be New York’s first Republican governor in nearly two decades, Democrats have repeatedly brought up one item in particular: his vote against certifying last year’s presidential election results in January.
Zeldin was one of four Republican members of Congress from New York who voted against certifying the results in Pennsylvania and Arizona, both of which were ultimately confirmed by a majority of lawmakers.
When Republican leaders met in Albany last month to select Zeldin as their presumptive nominee for governor, Democrats immediately seized on the moment, labeling Zeldin as “radical,” and tying him to former President Donald Trump.
“They have chosen an out-of-touch, radical Far Right, sycophantic Trump supporter who voted to not certify the Electoral College voted on the evening of the January 6th Trump-led insurrection,” State Democratic Chair Jay Jacobs said at the time.
But Zeldin, who represents part of Long Island, says his vote in January was more complicated than his alliance with Trump, who placed special focus on combating gang violence on the island while he was in the White House.
Speaking on New York NOW, Zeldin said that, for him, it was a legal issue.
“The issue that I had with regards to what happened in 2020, was because we had a pandemic,” Zeldin said. “And in the name of the pandemic, you had non-state legislative actors making changes to how their elections were administered.”
One example, Zeldin said, was the decision in Pennsylvania to allow voters to cure, or fix, mail-in absentee ballots that are determined to have potential signature errors. Another was how a county clerk in Wisconsin told voters how to skirt the state’s voter ID laws, he said.
Both of those situations were the result of the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced states to adjust their voting laws and regulations at a time when mass gatherings at polling places could have contributed to the spread of the virus.
Zeldin said those changes should’ve been made by each state’s Legislature, rather than by officials outside that branch of government.
“This is in the United States Constitution. State legislature set how these elections should be administered,” Zeldin said. “I believe that constitutional provision was written purposely, it’s something that should be followed and respected.”
Zeldin was referring to Article I, Section 4 of the U.S. Constitution, which says the way federal elections are administered “shall be prescribed in each state by the Legislature thereof.”
“That was my biggest issue that I was talking about,” Zeldin said of his vote in January against certifying the presidential election results.
Several lawsuits challenging those results, brought by Trump and his allies, were thrown out, and dismissed on appeal. In the end, claims of election fraud were rejected in court, handing President Joe Biden the win in January, when Congress certified the results.
Outside those lawsuits, several groups have also debunked claims that the election wasn’t secure, including elections officials in dozens of states, the Department of Homeland Security under Trump, and several other institutions.