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Federal judge orders Erie Co. Board of Elections place Byron Brown on November ballot for Mayor of Buffalo

Buffalo Mayor Brown
Posted at 1:21 PM, Sep 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-04 08:39:31-04

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — A federal judge has ordered the Erie County Board of Elections place Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown on the November ballot for Mayor of Buffalo on an independent ballot line.

The Brown campaign previously launched a petition to be on the November ballot following his loss to India Walton in the Democratic primary for Mayor of Buffalo. The Brown campaign was challenging the new May deadline to file a petition to appear on the November ballot. The deadline was moved up due to the primary taking place in June instead of September like previous years.

Attorney from the Brown campaign, Jerry Goldfeder of Manhattan, argued in front of the board of elections during a public hearing on August 27 that the legislature’s date was set too early — denying the candidate his or her constitutional right and denying voters enough time to decide.

Following the public hearing, Erie County Board of Elections denied the Brown campaign's petition with Erie County Board of Elections Republican Election Commissioner Ralph Mohr saying "if anyone could file any set of documents whenever they want to it would create chaos."

After the decision was made the Brown campaign said it would continue to pursue legal options.

A lawsuit was filed Monday in State Supreme Court, arguing the legislature’s change in primary day was unconstitutional and does not give voters enough time to decide.

A second lawsuit was also filed Monday in Federal Court on behalf of three Buffalo residents who support Byron Brown for Mayor. The lawsuit “Alleges that New York’s early deadline, as applied to the would-be candidate violates their rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution”

It says the three Buffalo voters are seeking a temporary restraining order, “Prohibiting Erie County election official from enforcing that deadline, and requiring them to place the candidate’s name on the 2021 general-election ballot.”

The judge assigned to that case is John Sinatra, Jr. Sinatra is the brother of Nick Sinatra of Sinatra Development, who the 7 Eyewitness News I-Team found has contributed to the Byron Brown for Mayor campaign several times.

In court Friday Judge Sinatra said he knows people have been saying he should have recused himself and he received phone calls suggesting it, but said there was no legal basis for it.

In his decision ordering the board of elections place Brown on the ballot, Sinatra said it burdens the plaintiffs' rights to not have him on the ballot.

The India Walton Campaign responded to the decision during a press conference Friday afternoon, saying in part "today’s ruling flies in the face of our democratic process, and constitutes a grave insult to Buffalo voters and our duly elected state legislators," and the campaign is considering an immediate appeal to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.

You can watch the full press conference below.

"It's a very difficult road, legally and an uphill battle to prove anything to show that the judge was not fair and impartial because of some outside matter," said former judge Penny Wolfgang.

Brown also spoke Friday afternoon and said in part "we said that we believe there was precedent that I would still get on the ballot, that we had lawyers that looked at this and felt very confident that once we went to court that we would be on the ballot. And an election is two rounds, it's a primary and a general election, an election isn't over until the general election is held."