You are reading

Hearing Held Over Lawsuit Challenging Ballot Requirements

Petition Signing Pre-COVID Photo: Alan Chan (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Feb. 22, 2021 By Christina Santucci

A Supreme Court justice is now weighing in on a lawsuit brought by more than 100 political candidates and their supporters — asking that the requirements to collect in-person signatures to get on the ballot be waived.

State Supreme Court Justice Frank P. Nervo presided over a hearing about the suit Monday, and said he plans to issue his ruling “as expeditiously as possible.”

  • Petitioning to be on the ballot, which entails collecting signatures on designating petitions, is currently scheduled to start March 2, and those petitions have to be filed with the Board of Elections from March 22 to 25.

Political candidates must collect a threshold of signatures depending on which office they are running for, but they typically gather many more than needed in case the signatures are challenged by their opponents.

State officials reduced the number of signatures needed by about 70 percent in January — so mayoral candidates now need a minimum of 2,500. City Council candidates are now required to collect 270 signatures from registered voters who live in the district in order to appear on the ballot.

But a group of candidates said the lowered threshold still puts people at risk of spreading COVID-19, and filed a lawsuit against Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio Feb. 8.

Council member Jimmy Van Bramer, who is running for Queens borough president, as well as 11 candidates seeking Queens council seats are among the plaintiffs.

The lawsuit argues that the requirement to gather in-person signatures is unconstitutional, claiming that it puts people’s health at risk. The suit asks the court to direct state and city officials to figure out an “alternative, constitutionally sound method” for candidates to be placed on the ballot.

On Monday, attorney and Manhattan Council candidate Arthur Schwartz presented their case during a virtual hearing. He argued that as many as 1,000 political candidates citywide may want to gather signatures this year, leading to numerous in person interactions.

“There is no way that you can collect petitions and stay six feet away from someone else,” he said.

Assistant Attorney General Eva L. Dietz represented Cuomo, and Stephen Kitzinger, senior counsel in the New York City Law Department, appeared on behalf of de Blasio.

Schwartz suggested that petitioning could be done virtually, or officials could certify candidates who had reached the threshold needed to receive matching funds from the city’s Campaign Finance Board.

In a back-and-forth discussion, Justice Nervo questioned Schwartz about whether signatures could be gathered in person safely, citing protective measures that are used in banks and stores.

“There are ways for people to protect themselves during these short interactions,” he said.

Schwartz responded that safety measures would burden candidates, and the requirements — as is — would force each candidate and their supporters to approach hundreds of people.

“That’s a lot more than going to the store to buy bananas,” he said.

email the author: [email protected]
No comments yet

Leave a Comment
Reply to this Comment

All comments are subject to moderation before being posted.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Recent News

Long Island City teen sentenced in fatal shooting of ‘beloved’ school teacher at Queensbridge Houses in 2020: DA

A Long Island City man on Friday, Jan. 28, was sentenced to 19 years in prison for the 2020 fatal shooting of a public school social studies teacher who was out walking his dog when he was caught in the crossfire during a confrontation between gang rivals in broad daylight, just blocks from his home, according to Queens District Attorney’s office.

Ike Ford, 19, of 12th Street, in Long Island City, pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the first degree before Queens Supreme Court Justice Kenneth Holder. The teacher, George Rosa, 53, was shot in his abdomen by a stray bullet fired by Ford, who was just 17 years old at the time of the shooting but was sentenced as an adult given the severity of the crime, according to Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz.

LaGuardia Community College receives federal funding to expand vocational training for the unemployed

LaGuardia Community College recently received more than $400,000 in federal funding to enhance and expand vocational training for underemployed New Yorkers in a city that is still working to recover from COVID-19 pandemic-induced job loss. The support was secured by U.S. Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez and former Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney.

LaGuardia Community College President Kenneth Adams explained that the school lost nearly a quarter of its students at the height of the pandemic due to the economic effects of the lockdown on low-income Queens households.

BP launches new advisory panel for youth to become civically engaged in the future of Queens

In an effort to get more young people involved in civics, Queens Borough President Donovan Richards has created a new advisory panel known as the Youth and Young Adult Council to introduce the “youngest and fiercest” community advocates to both community service and organization.

Members of the advisory body will advocate concerns through means of community engagement by participating in one of two cohorts. The first will be made up of high school representatives between the ages of 13 and 17, while the second cohort will be comprised of young adults between the ages of 18 and 25.

These Queens eateries are participating in the upcoming NYC Restaurant Week

NYC Restaurant Week is underway, so nix that skillet and bring family and friends to your favorite neighborhood spot, or get inspired and break bread somewhere new and different. During this special citywide culinary event, food-lovers will enjoy curated menus and prix-fixe prices that are easy on the wallet.

Bookings began on Jan. 17 and are available until Feb. 12, and you can reserve a table at 30 participating Queens restaurants, along with hundreds more across the five boroughs.