GOP Onondaga County lawmakers support lawsuit against NYS over elections
In a party-line vote, the Onondaga County Legislature Tuesday approved a measure that supports legal action by the county to challenge a new state law that moves county and town elections to even years. Proponents of the lawsuit claim Albany has trampled on the county’s charter, which states elections for county legislature and executive be held on odd years.
The Republican majority in the legislature pushed the measure, which amends the county budget to provide at least $100,000 for the county executive to pursue litigation. Legislature chairman Tim Burtis says the state government, which is dominated by Democrats, shouldn’t be moving elections for county legislature and executive.
“By doing so, important local issues will be overshadowed by high profile state and federal issues during elections," Burtis said at a news conference before the vote. "But more importantly, the new law is a bold attempt to dismantle Onondaga County's legal independence without due process.”
Fellow Republican legislator Mark Olson says they simply can't allow that to happen, regardless of the situation.
“Let's just take out the what they're trying to do," Olson said. "It's a violation of the charter and home rule and that's what we're saying. It doesn't matter what the issue is, it's the state overstepping their authority.”
Olson says they had to approve the measure quickly to get the lawsuit in front of a judge. The final vote was 11 to 5. But Democratic floor leader Chris Ryan and his colleagues say the item was rushed to the floor without proper vetting in committee about its true cost.
“There is a litany of questions that we should be asking on behalf of the taxpayers," Ryan said. "We're going to ask them, but we're being asked to take this vote 27 hours after we just got the information and are expected to go down this, which could be a rabbit hole of half a million. Who knows.”
Republicans deny the measure is politically motivated. Voter turnout in the county nearly doubles in even numbered years, especially among Democrats, when there are state and federal races on the ballot. It's believed Onondaga County is the first to file such a lawsuit over the new state election law. Cities, villages, and some county races are exempt.