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Southampton Press / Opinion / Letters / 1297555

Making Democracy Work

Now that the New York State Court of Appeals has issued an order finally denying the appeal of Eileen Duffy in the case of Lynch v. Duffy, I can speak freely to correct some misinformation that has circulated, and to clarify the purpose of this lawsuit.

This lawsuit (in which I’m named as the petitioner—but it could have been any voter) was not brought to frustrate Eileen Duffy’s candidacy for office. It was not brought to advance anyone else’s candidacy. It was not brought to prevent a primary election. And it was not brought to impose the will of some imagined establishment upon the majority.

This lawsuit was brought to protect democracy, and for no other reason.

As Democrats, we must practice small “d” democracy in our own affairs. To have real working democracy, however, we need certain rules that everyone follows. Without those rules, what we’ve got is not democracy but chaos.

Eileen Duffy broke some fundamental rules, circulating petitions for the Democratic nomination for Southampton Town Council after she had accepted the party’s nomination for Town Trustee. She changed her mind. These petitions of Ms. Duffy also contained the names of other Democratic candidates without their knowledge or consent.

What’s involved here are not fancy legal technicalities or nitpicking restrictions, but two simple rules that are grounded in everyday common sense.

Rule One: You can’t run for two different offices at once, because that confuses the voters.

Rule Two: You can’t claim the support of other candidates by putting their names on your petition without their consent, because that misleads the voters.

That’s it—pretty simple, pretty obvious, things we’d all include if we were sitting down to write the rules from scratch ourselves.

Eileen Duffy ignored both of these basic rules, so that the challenge to her petitions wasn’t a matter of scrutinizing each and every signature to find some obscure flaw. Instead, it was an across-the-board assertion that the petitions, with all their signatures, were invalid.

The trial court agreed, the Appellate Division (to which Ms. Duffy appealed) agreed, and now the highest court in the state, the Court of Appeals (to which Ms. Duffy also appealed), likewise has agreed.

So if anyone sees this episode as some crushing of the people’s will by a few insiders, that’s not what happened. On the contrary, this was doing what we’ve always done in America—making our democracy work and survive by keeping the rules we’ve laid down.

George LynchQuiogue Mr. Lynch is treasurer of the Southampton Town Democratic Committee—Ed.

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