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Zeldin campaign mailers gave wrong deadline for absentee ballots

UPDATED (Tuesday, Oct. 23 at 4 p.m.):Democratic Congressional candidate Perry Gershon is calling for an investigation into Rep. Lee Zeldin’s (R-Shirley) re-election campaign after voters were sent incorrect information about absentee ballot deadlines. 

The postcard sent by the Zeldin campaign quotes Mr. Zeldin as saying, “The right to vote is one of the most fundamental rights guaranteed to us. It protects our democracy by making officials accountable to the people. I urge you to exercise that right, by completing your requested absentee ballot and postmarking it by November 6th.”

According to the New York State Board of Elections, the actual deadline for postmarking absentee ballots is Nov. 5.

“You send an absentee ballot reminder, great. That’s a good thing to do. That’s a public service. But if you put a date on it that’s one day after the deadline, then it becomes a fraud,” Mr. Gershon said at a press conference in Stony Brook Tuesday.

In a letter to U.S. Attorney Richard Donohue, Mr. Gershon calls for an immediate investigation into what he characterized as voter suppression.

He said that voters who received the inaccurate post cards were “disproportionately located in communities of color, and disproportionately college-age students.”

Noah Plofker of Brookhaven, 20, received the mailer last week on campus at the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan. He noticed the error immediately. 

“I was already well aware of the date I need to send it in by because I’m a pretty politically active person,” he said Monday. “But I don’t think the average college student would realize it was the wrong date.”

Kaitlyn Hart, a student at SUNY/Binghamton, received the mailer despite being registered to vote in NY-02. She pointed out that the date was printed incorrectly on the outside of the mailer, but had the correct date of Nov. 5 inside. “People should be able to rely on their elected officials to tell them the truth, especially about elections,” she said.

Chris Boyle, communications director for Zeldin for Congress, blamed the mistake on a printing error. “Our campaign caught that error before going to print and updated the proof, but the printer unfortunately ended up using the wrong version by accident,” he said by email Monday.

Mr. Boyle declined to comment on how many incorrect mailers were sent out, but pointed out that online materials — emails, Facebook advertisements and their websites — all reference the correct Nov. 5 deadline.

The postcards were printed at PDQ Print and Mail in Bohemia. “Unfortunately in a printing error, the absentee ballot mail piece sent out for Lee Zeldin earlier this week had a mistake in the date absentee ballots need to be postmarked by,” owner Scott Nordin said in a statement. “The Zeldin campaign had sent and approved the piece with November 5th (the correct date) but in a printing error, the wrong file was printed.”

Mr. Boyle said the mistake was “immediately” corrected. Mr. Nordin confirmed that a new run of the mailer with the correct date has been sent out.

This is the second election in which Mr. Zeldin’s campaign has made the mistake.

In 2016, Newsday reported that a campaign mailer gave voters the wrong deadline to postmark absentee ballots by. A campaign spokesperson at the time said the campaign mailer was a mistake.

Mr. Gerhson isn’t buying it.

“The fact that this has happened two elections in a row is not a coincidence,” he said. “That defies logic and credulity. Even if the Zeldin campaign had made a bona fide mistake in 2016, the likelihood that, amid presumably heightened awareness, the same campaign would make the same “mistake” in 2018—is near zero.”

The New York State Board of Elections has set the following deadlines for absentee voting:

Tuesday, Oct. 30, is the last day to request an absentee ballot by mail. Monday, Nov. 5, is the last day to apply in person for an absentee ballot or postmark a completed ballot. Tuesday, Nov. 6, is the last day to deliver ballots in-person to the local Board of Elections.

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