Representatives for state Sen. Frank Padavan (R−Bellerose) and City Councilman James Gennaro (D−Fresh Meadows) took their battle for the 11th Senate District seat to court Tuesday.
About a dozen students from St. John’s University appeared in Queens Supreme Court Tuesday after being subpoenaed to verify their residences. Republican lawyers are challenging the students’ votes, and Padavan said the students voted via affidavit ballots using addresses that were not their permanent residences.
Padavan is facing the most serious challenge of his 36 years in the Senate from Gennaro, a two−term councilman and chairman of the Council’s Environmental Committee.
“As I understand it, one student lives in Georgia, and another lives in another Senate district,” Padavan said. “They are being questioned in terms of their legitimacy as voters. If you’re a registered voter, and you register in a particular place with the appropriate means of identification, that’s fine, but that’s not the case here. This is a question of what’s right and what’s wrong.”
Padavan currently leads Gennaro by just under 700 votes, but city Elections Board officials still need to count 1,000 ballots and the validity of about 2,000 ballots still needs to be reviewed, according to Austin Shafran, a spokesman for the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee.
“Several ballots have been set aside to be ruled on by a judge to make a third−party ruling,” Shafran said. “The important thing is not to speed through this process, but to get it right and make sure anybody who’s eligible to vote should have their ballot counted.”
Democrats have railed against Republicans for challenging the students’ votes.
“At a time when St. John’s students should be free to prepare for their exams, they’ve been dragged into court for fulfilling their civic duty,” Shafran said. “It’s outrageous that’s the lesson Republicans are teaching students.”
According to Elections Board officials, a student is eligible to register and vote in the district in which his or her dorm is located, or to register from the address at which their parents live.
Last week, Democrats accused Republicans of disenfranchising minority voters by challenging votes cast by people with Asian or Latino names. Padavan called the accusation “scurrilous and fraught with lies.”
©2008 Community News Group
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