SHE SAYS CUOMO ‘FORCES’ SYSTEM ON HER
By JIM KEVLIN • Special To www.AllOTSEGO.com
COOPERSTOWN – The state’s “Green Light” Law that went into effect over the weekend is all about registering potential Democratic voters, Otsego County Clerk Kathy Sinnott Gardner said in an interview.
“They are making a mockery of our voting system,” said Sinnott Gardner Tuesday, Dec. 17, as she was organizing her staff to administer a law she disagrees with.
As of press time, only one undocumented resident had shown up locally – Monday, at the Oneonta office – and was told the office was not yet prepared to issue licenses under the new law.
Before the “Green Light” was turned on, a U.S. citizen applying for a driver’s license would present documentation that would be scanned and sent to state Department of Motor Vehicles headquarters in Albany, where it would be part of that driver’s file. The processing clerk would also make a notation on the application.
Under the new law, Sinnott Gardner’s clerks must accept a valid foreign passport or driver’s license on faith. “If we can’t read their birth certificate, they can translate it themselves and tell us what it is,” said DMV Clerk Lynn Blessin. The document may not be scanned as has been standard practice to date, nor is any notation on the application permitted.
When an applicant then approaches the pay window, a question on a screen asks, “Are you a citizen of the U.S.?” According to guidelines from the state DMV, “If a customer answers ‘yes,’ our computer system is required by law to transmit the application to the applicable board of elections for processing.”
It continues, “Under the Green Light Law, DMV staff are expressly precluded from asking a standard license applicant about their citizenship or lawful presence … Importantly, staff … may not use their perceptions of the customer, or anything else, as the basis to interfere with the customer’s voter application.”
Sinnott Gardner, who has been among a core of 26 county clerks opposing the new legislation, has developed a system that will allow her eight-person DMV staff to process the undocumented residents, also called illegal immigrants.
Following the Niagara County clerk and others, three of the eight will be trained to process “Green Light” applications, which will be scheduled 9:30-11:30 a.m. only Wednesdays and Thursdays, and only in main local DMV office in Cooperstown. The applications will be accepted, beginning Thursday, Jan. 2.
“We are being forced to do this by Governor Cuomo,” said Sinnott Gardner. “We have to follow the law.”
In recent months, several county clerks went to court to object to the law, which was passed last summer by the newly Democratic-dominated state Legislature. But the final one pending, by Rensselaer County Clerk Frank Merola, was dismissed Friday, Dec. 13. Another, filed by Erie County Clerk Mickey Kearns, also lost in U.S. District Court, but he is appealing, Sinnott Gardner said.
“The Green Light law is legal and enforceable,” Attorney General Letitia James, whose office defended the measure, said after the Merola decision, “and two separate federal courts have now already dismissed the meritless claims of two county clerks.
“Beginning Monday, the law will help make our roads safer, our economy stronger, and will allow immigrants to come out of the shadows to sign up as legal drivers in our state,” she said. “We expect all public officials to comply with the law, and, as the state’s attorney and chief law enforcement officer, I will continue to vigorously defend it.”