Tompkins Board of Elections clarifies district attorney race

Editor's Note: The following is a guest column written by Stephen M. DeWitt and Elizabeth W. Cree, election commissioners for Tompkins County.

ITHACA, N.Y. —  The Tompkins County Board of Elections has had several inquiries regarding the sudden turn of events at the Tompkins County District Attorney's Office. We are writing this to clarify what has happened and what the procedure will be going forward.

On July 8, Gwen Wilkinson resigned as the District Attorney for Tompkins County. This created a vacancy in the office. On November 8, 2016, when voters in Tompkins County vote for president and other elected offices, the position of Tompkins County District Attorney will also be on the ballot. The candidate that is elected will serve a full four-year term beginning January 1, 2017.

Normally, candidates for this office are designated by the political parties through the petition process, which concluded July 14. Because the vacancy occurred too late in the petition process, the political parties will not be able to designate candidates by petition. Fortunately, New York State Election Law provides solutions any time such situations arise:

Section 6-116 of Election Law states that a party nomination of a candidate for election to fill a vacancy in an elective office required to be filled at the next general election shall be made, after the day of the primary election, by a majority vote of a quorum of the members of a county committee or committees last elected in the political subdivision in which such vacancy is to be filled, or by a majority of such other committee as the rules of the party may provide. A certificate of nomination shall be filed as provided for herein.

To put the previous paragraph in lay terms, the members of the Democratic and Republican county committees must meet after Sep. 13 and with a quorum present and by a majority vote of those present select a candidate to run on their respective party lines. The Conservative, Green, Working Families, Independence, Women’s Equality and Reform parties can select a candidate by a majority vote of such other committees as their rules provide.

All of the political parties that nominate a candidate for District Attorney must then file a Certificate of Nomination at the Tompkins County Board of Elections, no later than 5 p.m. Sep. 20, 2016.  The Tompkins County Board of Elections notified all eight parties of the vacancy and the process for filling the vacancy and nominating candidates in a letter which we mailed on July 8, 2016.

Any person interested in seeking this position or seeking to have input in a particular party’s selection process should contact that party. Party contacts can be accessed on the Tompkins County Board of Elections website ( or by using the following link:

If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact us at 607-274-5522.

Stephen M. DeWitt and Elizabeth W. Cree
Commissioners of Elections