UPDATED-Judge withholds ruling in Bethlehem election lawsuit

A state Supreme Court judge on Thursday, Oct. 1, withheld judgment in a lawsuit filed by Bethlehem supervisor hopeful Sam Messina against incumbent Jack Cunningham over votes that could decide who will appear on the Working Families Party line in November.

Judge Kimberly O'Connor asked for supplemental briefs from both sides after five hours in court on Thursday, and will likely deliver a decision early next week.

Republican-endorsed Messinawho is a member of the Independence Partyis alleging that 11 voters who registered with the Working Families Party on the eve of the cutoff to vote in the primary election did not properly verify their identities, and thus the absentee ballots the submitted should be invalidated.

He also contends that the registrations were an effort by Cunningham to seize control of the WFP in Bethlehem. Including the last-minute registrants, there are approximately 28 WFP voters in the town, and the party endorsed Messina.

According to Albany County Republican Election Commissioner John Graziano, a third party entered the Board of Elections offices on Aug. 20 and asked for Democratic Commissioner Matthew Clyne, who accepted the registration and absentee ballot applications.

"The intent of the people who brought these applications in was to walk out with ballots that people could vote on, which would essentially amount to same day voting," Graziano said.

Clyne, who is also the chairman of the Bethlehem Democratic Party, said that the identity of the voters was indeed verified through the application process, and they were fine to cast votes.

"There's no question that they were in fact validated," Clyne said. "All of their identities were confirmedthese are authentic voters."

New voters are required to provide the last four digits of their social security number or their driver's license number. If these are not confirmed through the statewide voter database they will be flagged on the voter rolls and required to provide identification at the polling place, but since these voters were voting by absentee ballot that rule does not apply, said Clyne.

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