Town of North Hempstead votes to sue state over even year election, residents call it a political stunt

Town of North Hempstead votes to sue state over even year election, residents call it a political stunt
Resident Ronald Brinn addresses to the Town of North Hempstead Board his opposition to the town's lawsuit against the state's even year elections law. (Photo by Cameryn Oakes)

The Town of North Hempstead voted along party lines Tuesday night to engage in litigation against the state law that moves most local elections to even years.

Residents overwhelmingly spoke out against the litigation, which they called a political move, a mishandling of taxpayers' money, and sacrificing democratic processes for partisanship.

“It is inconceivable to me that there could be some members of this board, as well as our supervisor, who support such a frivolous and costly agenda item when it is your primary responsibility to protect the hardworking, middle-class families that call North Hempstead home,” resident Scott Wolff said.

Supervisor Jennifer DeSena said the law hinders local elections.

The law signed by Gov. Kathy Hochul in December is scheduled to take effect in 2026. Officials elected after Jan. 1, 2025, will serve shortened terms to match up with the upcoming even-year elections.

The lawsuit will be filed in tandem with the Towns of Hempstead and Oyster Bay, with town attorneys handling the case.

The town board’s Republicans – DeSena and Councilmembers Ed Scott, Dennis Walsh and David Adhami – all voted to pursue litigation.

Democratic Councilmembers Christine Liu and Mariann Dalimonte voted against the suit. Councilmember Robert Troiano was not present at the meeting.

Liu called the lawsuit political and divisive, saying the town should not be engaging in such matters better left to the political parties.

“I strongly feel that we should not use our town resources and taxpayer money on political litigation,” Liu said.

DeSena said she backed the lawsuit to preserve local elections. She said lumping them with national and state elections may drown out local issues through voter fatigue.

“Imagine with all the campaign materials that get sent out during an election and the signs you see,” DeSena said. “Imagine trying to keep track of 30 races and 60 candidates. Local government matters and how can a local candidate expect to be heard and remembered when they’re being drowned out by the huge contests and campaigns coming out of Albany and Washington D.C.?”

Resident Marc Sittenreich described the law’s intent as increasing voter turnout and participatory democracy by putting local elections on the same ballot as those including the president and governor, which typically draw in more voters.

“The whole point of that is to make the government more representative, to have more turnout,” Sittenreich said of the law

Kim Keiserman, a Democratic candidate in the District 7 state senate race, said increasing voter participation in local elections will bolster local representation.

“That should be a goal that all of us share,” Keiserman told the board.

Multiple residents echoed this intent of the law, saying it would deepen democratic participation and help attract more voters to the polls.

“This is not about municipal sovereignty, this is not a David versus Goliath battle against the state or Gov. Hochul,” Sittenreich said. “It’s about keeping one party entrenched in power. It’s really quite simple: when more people vote, democracy wins.”

Multiple residents called the lawsuit a political stunt to prop the board’s own political interests.

Looming over this issue is the belief that Democrats vote at higher rates during even-year elections, which residents cited as a reason for the Republican-controlled Town of North Hempstead to get involved in this fight.

But in 2022, the last even-year election, multiple Long Island races resulted in Republicans winning. This included George Santos being elected to the 3rd Congressional District, Jack Martins being elected to District 7 state senate, and Bruce Blakeman being elected county executive—all seats formerly held by Democrats.

Walsh said the issue is arising because of the results of the prior years’ elections.

Sittenreich said he was frustrated by “frivolous lawsuits” that now include the town and multiple others by the county. He said these are expended on the backs of taxpayers.

Residents referred to the town’s lawsuit as a double whammy that would result in expenses for both the town and the county.

“Nassau County is already doing it,” Dalimonte said. “Why do we have to jump on the wagon?”

Residents argued that taxpayer funds should go towards initiatives – like infrastructure – that benefit the community instead of going towards a lawsuit.

“Please, I beg you, turn your attention and energy to improving conditions in the Town of North Hempstead, not wasting money on what appears to be a political stunt,” resident Nina Gordon said. “This not in the best interest of the town.”

While the litigation will be held in-house and no explicit expense is associated with the suit, Dalimonte said having the town attorney’s office handle the case will take them away from other work needed in the village and come at the expense of those issues.

DeSena said many of the residents who spoke against the lawsuit were Democratic officers, candidates and employees of Democratic politicians.

No speaker identified their political party affiliation, excluding one member of the public who said he was a registered Republican and asked for the board to consider the litigation’s costs further. Keiserman is seeking the Democratic nomination for state senate's 7th District.

Dalimonte denounced the supervisor’s callout of the residents speaking all being Democratic officials, saying it was not accurate and belittles their ability to participate as members of the public.

“Residents of the Town of North Hempstead have the right to come to our board meetings to have their voices be heard regardless of what party they represent,” Dalimonte said. “It shouldn’t be about that.”

DeSena said the residents who spoke Tuesday night do not completely represent the town.

Dalimonte said that this litigation does not reflect the desires of the town’s constituency.

“I strongly believe that democracy and government work best when they reflect the will and the values of the people they serve, not just some of the people but all of the people,” Dalimonte said.

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