The Dog Ate My Homework, er…. Petition
by Peter A. Reese - posted 11:55 pm, July 23, 2017
Otto, Petition Destroyer
It’s Designating Petition time again for New York politicians. This sacred ritual plays itself out every year for the thousands of elected officials in the Empire State. In general, these petitions are the vehicle for office holders and seekers to get their names printed on the millions of ballots consumed in party primary and general elections. Ballot access requires approximately 5% of the voters registered in each political unit (county, city, town, ward, etc. ) to sign an otherwise meaningless document so that the person(s) listed at the top can run in a party primary. If there is only one candidate, there is no primary and the office seeker proceeds to the ballot in the November General Election. There are now eight political parties in New York, and candidates can run on all lines if they wish, so they often have multiple petitions. The Democrats and Republicans have clouds of registered voters, so 5% can be a big number and the election law has minimum numbers like 500, 1000, and 2000, …. to make life easier. With the smaller parties, like the Working Families Party (line #6), the number of required signatures in a county legislative race will only be about 20. Sounds easy, but there are few people eligible to sign, scattered over a large geographic area, and the inconsiderate suckers are never home when you knock on their door. This means a petition sheet with ten signatures is a valuable document intended to become official on filing with the Board of Elections. Don’t have enough signatures or otherwise screw up your petition or filing and you don’t get the party line. Very important for the Dem and Rep lines, less so for smaller parties, but still highly sought after and prized. Many elected officials would not be in office, but for the votes they got on the Conservative, Independence and Working Families lines. And if you have the line, your opponent doesn’t. Enter Otto, the Petition Eating Dog, who decides to chew on your precious piece of paper a few days before the final filing date, and you have a big problem:
Not to worry. While these petitions are important documents (What good is your vote if you don’t have anyone to vote for?), compliance with the numerous requirements of the election law is only required to be “substantial” and rules are liberally construed consistent with the prevention of fraud and proper administration of the election process. In English, this means you can screw up a little as long as you are not committing fraud and the Board of Elections (or the courts) can figure out what you are trying to accomplish.
So break out the glue pot and an iron, grab a blank petition, and create a Frankenstein which preserves as much of the original petition (particularly the signatures) as possible. The result presented below, may raise some eyebrows, but it’ll get you on the ballot.
When you think about it, the only important part of the original which you cannot rebuild is the voter’s signatures. If you could do signatures on your own, you could do this on the kitchen table. So no harm, no foul. The Board of Elections can still see who signed for you. Initial any obvious changes and you are on your way to a career as a grinning, tax eating politico.