A Democratic state lawmaker from the New York City suburbs has signaled she will be introducing a bill that would allow a candidate facing criminal charges to decline a party designation or nomination and be removed from the ballot.
State Assemblywoman Amy Paulin in a memo to her fellow lawmakers sent on Wednesday comes after the resignation of Lt. Gov. Brian Benjamin after he was charged in a five-count felony indictment. For now, Benjamin will remain on the June primary ballot, though he has suspended his campaign as he plans to fight the charges.
"I will soon be introducing legislation to allow a candidate for office to decline their party’s designation or nomination, and be removed from the ballot, if they are charged with a crime," Paulin wrote in the memorandum released by her office. "A candidate who is charged with a crime prior to the election should be permitted to voluntarily decline the party’s designation or nomination and withdraw their name from the ballot to allow a new candidate to be selected."
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Gov. Kathy Hochul has said she will replace Benjamin in the lieutenant governor's office. But replacing him on the ballot under the current election law is less straightforward. At the moment, a candidate can only be disqualified for a nomination if they die, move out of state or if they are nominated for another office.
Benjamin is allowed to travel to parts of Virginia and Georgia as part of the bonding agreement with federal prosecutors.
It's not clear if the bill would be approved and signed into law in time for Benjamin's name to be taken off the ballot and early voting begins June 16 for the party primary.
Hochul on Wednesday in an interview with WNYC said she wants to review the existing election laws to make potential cchanges.
"The laws are very complicated," she said. "It will all be clear when we dive into our options here."