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Feds to Review Nassau Voter Suppression Claims

Allegations include bogus ACORN letter designed to suppress voter turnout in presidential election


During last year’s battle for the White House, a letter was allegedly created to steer Hempstead and Uniondale voters away from the polls. It fraudulently bore the markings of ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now) and raised enough suspicion to be investigated by the Nassau County District Attorney’s Office.
 
Now, that letter and the allegations surrounding it are in the hands of the feds. 

Allegations surrounding a letter intended for Hempstead and Uniondale voters purporting to be from ACORN and apparently designed to suppress voter turnout was investigated by the Nassau District Attorney's Office and is now in the hands of the feds.

Allegations surrounding a letter intended for Hempstead and Uniondale voters purporting to be from ACORN and apparently designed to suppress voter turnout was investigated by the Nassau District Attorney's Office and is now in the hands of the feds.

The Nassau District Attorney’s Office has referred documents and investigatory findings relating to allegations of voter suppression involving a New York State senator, county Board of Elections commissioner and county legislative candidate’s husband to federal investigators.


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According to a September 10 correspondence from Nassau District Attorney Kathleen Rice’s office to Christopher Coates, chief of the voting section at the U.S. Department of Justice, and Michael Goldberger of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Eastern District of New York, the allegations stem from a complaint made by a former state government employee claiming a Nassau County Board of Elections employee provided him with a letter and pre-addressed envelopes intended for mailing to registered voters in Hempstead and Uniondale—with the goal of suppressing voter turnout during the 2008 presidential election.
 
“We are in receipt of the letter, which purports to be from the organization ‘ACORN’ and the New York State Board of Elections,” writes Executive Assistant District Attorney Meg Reiss, of the Nassau District Attorney’s Investigations Division. “We are also in receipt of the pre-addressed envelopes. The letter appears to be designed to suppress voter turnout.”
 
Despite the “serious nature of the complaint,” as described by the district attorney’s office, the Press has been the only media outlet in the region to report on the allegations ["A Long Island Press Exclusive: Nassau GOP In The Hot Seat," April 10, 2009], though other newspapers and Democratic Party officials have been privy to the controversial letter and its purported implications.
 
According to Reiss’ referral, her office initially received the complaint on or about March 30, 2009 and was informed April 2, 2009 that the complainant did not wish to pursue it. Due to the “serious nature” of the allegations, the district attorney’s office proceeded with and completed several investigatory steps, it reads. Although her office does not have “legally sufficient evidence” connecting the Board of Elections employee to any violation of New York State law at this time, she writes, in accordance with the nature of the allegation, the office found it necessary to refer all information relevant to its investigation to the feds for review.
 
That complainant, according to several Press sources familiar with the matter whom asked not to be identified due to the sensitivity of the issue, is Christopher Bastardi, former director of public affairs and communications for New York State Sen. Kemp Hannon (R-Garden City) and former president of the Valley Stream Republican Club.
 
Bastardi allegedly told investigators he was directed by Nassau County Republican Board of Elections Commissioner John A. DeGrace to reproduce and mail the bogus ACORN letter to newly registered African-American voters in the Hempstead-Uniondale district. The letter allegedly told the would-be voters not to go to the polls on Election Day, that their votes would be cast for their respective parties’ candidates.
 
DeGrace denied the claims when contacted by the Press in April, characterizing them as politically motivated. Bastardi and his wife, Nina Petraro, are both recent defectors to the Democratic Party. Petraro is running against Republican Legis. John Ciotti (R-North Valley Stream) this November.

 

“Recently he [Bastardi] and his wife became Democrats and this obviously is politically motivated on his part, because she’s running for the legislative seat 3rd LD, which is against Mr. Ciotti, so obviously he’s got an agenda, political agenda, and unfortunately, he’s absolutely trying to use this for political reasons,” said DeGrace.

Bastardi declined to comment on the record at the time, as advised by his attorney, other than telling the Press, “I’ve been advised by my attorney not to comment on the investigation into voter suppression by Republicans of black voters.”

ACORN’s CEO and Chief Organizer Bertha Lewis called for a thorough investigation into the matter when contacted by the Press in April about the claims, issuing the following statement:
“These allegations are extremely serious. If true, this is yet another sorry chapter in a long shameful history of deceptive practices and dirty tricks by political operatives aimed at stopping new voters from going to the polls.”

 

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