News, commentary and analysis by leaders of the Communist Party USA in New York State. We discuss State politics and issues in New York City, covering developments in labor, civil rights education, housing and more.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Statement on Disqualifications of DeBlasio and Alan Gerson from Ballots

Every so often, something happens that shines a light on an important problem that is usually hidden. The actions taken by the NYC Board of Elections, in which Bill DeBlasio and Alan Gerson were thrown off the ballot for Public Advocate and City Council, respectively, illustrates the point.

DeBlasio needed less than 10,000 petition signatures to get on the ballot in September; he turned in around 125,000. Why was he thrown off? An idiotic technicality: His campaign staff filled out a form wrong—by a single digit. The campaign turned in 132 folders of signed petitions, but mistakenly wrote on the form that they had 131 folders. The fact that this error would actually count against DeBlasio, making it seem that he had less signatures, and therefore couldn’t possibly be in any way interpreted as fraud didn’t matter—he was disqualified from the ballot.

For Gerson, it was the same type of thing: Gerson needed only 900 petition signatures, but turned in around 7,000. Unfortunately, because of an error made by Gerson’s printer, his wrong home address was displayed on the forms: Instead of his house number being listed correct as 505, it was listed as 1505. Gerson’s team corrected the error; they crossed the extra digit off. But that didn’t matter either—Gerson was disqualified.
Whatever one thinks of DeBlasio or Gerson, this is sheer lunacy.

Both DeBlasio and Gerson are scheduled for a hearing at the Board of Elections. If they lose there, they will go to the courts, which will most likely reverse the negative BOE decisions. Nonetheless, New York’s system is full of this kind of preposterous nonsense. These hyper-technical rules, the intricacies of getting on the ballot, are pointless. Worse than that, they are anti-democratic. For example, a candidate with strong support in his or her community but who is underfunded may not be able to go to court to challenge such disqualifications.

Under this system, candidates with less money—less money to employ lawyers to make sure that all of the city’s arcane filing regulations are fulfilled, and less money to fight battles if the Board of Elections says they’re not—are at a disadvantage.

In the interest of democracy and allowing New Yorkers the right to vote for whom they wish, we call for the city’s filing regulations to be simplified dramatically. There is simply no real argument for these rules.

The law allows for finding submissions valid if the error is insignificant, thus leaving room for the BOE’s discretion. The problem is that the Board of Elections is controlled by the right wing of the Democratic Party machine. We believe that either an independent review panel should be set up to handle any of these types of issues and to watch over the BOE, or to at least put it fully under the control of the city council.

This would be another step, albeit a small one, towards a more democratic New York.

By Dan Margolis
New York State Communist Party

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