Ballot Battle: Gleason Campaign’s Perspective

Pete Gleason's lawyer, Ray Dowd, just called with his take on what happened at the courthouse today (see the last post). It should come as no surprise he''s not buying the Gerson campaign's argument that the mistakes made on the petitions were merely technical errors. He says it has became apparent that pre-printed petitions with Alan Gerson's wrong address were passed out to campaign workers collecting signatures. Dowd contends that, since those people altered the petitions by correcting Gerson's address, the petitions are "mutilated" documents, and therefore illegal. He says this is a clear case of fraud – justifying the disqualification of Gerson from the September ballot.

Dowd said he was not able to fully cross-examine Gerson and other witnesses about the alleged alteration of the cover sheets after the Election Board alerted the Gerson campaign to the problem. He will seek to question Gerson and other campaign staffers and surrogates Thursday.

Dowd expressed frustration that media coverage of yesterday's court hearing highlighted the judge's apparent reluctance to remove a candidate from the ballot for a "cover sheet issue." Dowd thinks, once he heard the argument that issue is really the "alteration of signatures,"  the judge changed his tune.

Gerson Testifies Before Court Referee

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We just heard from Lawrence Mandelker, the attorney representing Councilman Alan Gerson in State Supreme Court. As we reported earlier, a referee is sorting through the disputed facts in two lawsuits — one filed by Gerson against the Board of Elections, and the other a suit filed by challenger Pete Gleason against Gerson.

Mandelker argued today that Gerson fulfilled the requirements of state law and of the city's Election Board, in spite of the Board's ruling that his petition is invalid. He said the campaign made a "typographical error" on a cover sheet attached to one volume, incorrectly listing Gerson's address as 1505 Laguardia Place, rather than 505 Laguardia Place. Mandelker contends that since 1505 Laguardia is an address that does not exist – and since Gerson submitted more than 7-thousand signatures (far more than the required 900), it amounted to an inconsequential error.

He argued that since state law only calls for "substantial compliance" and is meant to prevent fraud, the Board should not have called on Gerson to file an amended cover sheet. Mandelker rejects the Gleason campaign's suggestion that the manner in which the amended cover sheet was filed, invalidated the entire petition. Gleason attorney Ray Dowd alleges that Gerson went down to the Election Board's office to correct the error himself, and in so doing, committed fraud. But testifying today, Gerson said he did not handle the issue personally.

The Gleason campaign will present its case on Thursday. Meanwhile, Mandelker will appear before the Board of Elections tomorrow morning to argue a narrow point — that rather than invalidating the entire petition, only those pages affected by the wrong address should be discounted.

We placed a call to the Gleason campaign earlier today. We'll update if we hear back this evening.

Gerson Appeal – Clarification

The Lo-Down contacted the city's Board of Elections this afternoon. Spokeswoman Valerie Vazquez says Manhattan candidate appeals will be heard next Wednesday at 11am, not Monday as some news outlets have been reporting. If Councilman Gerson wants to appeal the board's decision to kick him off the ballot — that's when it will happen. Earlier today, City Hall News reported that Vasquez had indicated only the County Supreme Court could reverse that decision.

We also talked with Gerson campaign consultant George Arzt today, He confirmed the Councilman's attorneys will present their case to the Board of Elections next week. He said the printing mistake in which Gerson's address was incorrect, amounts to a "trivial error." Arzt said the rules that invalidate the voices of thousands of voters who sign petitions are "ridiculous and absurd just on the surface." Gerson submitted petitions with more than 7-thousand signatures.

Arzt said the campaign would pursue legal action if the board does not reinstate Gerson on the September primary ballot.

Gerson Update: Still Off the Ballot

There are conflicting reports this morning about what's next for Councilman Alan Gerson, removed from the ballot by the NYC Elections Board. Yesterday, the board's two-member committee on "cover sheet review" reaffirmed a decision made a day earlier to disqualify Gerson due to a technical error” resulting from the printing of petitions that incorrectly listed his address. City Hall News reporter Chris Bragg caught up with Gerson last night at a fundraiser in Chinatown:

In an interview while the fundraiser was
going on behind him, Gerson said that he still officially considers
himself on the ballot until a full hearing of the Board of Elections
executive committee is conducted sometime next week. (This contradicts
the position of the Board of Elections: BoE spokeswoman Valerie Vasquez
said he was actually officially off the ballot, and this could only be
changed if the New York County Supreme Court reverses the decision.)
Gerson
also responded to a statement from opposing candidate Pete Gleason
“commending” the Board of Elections decision and stating that Gerson’s
removal from the ballot typified his “shoddy work ethic.”
“Pete Gleason is going to use this for political purposes,” Gerson said. “The printer made a mistake. It was a computer error.” Gerson
added that he had no regrets about trying to correct problems with his
petitions himself, rather than hiring an election lawyer do it.
“An
expert should not be needed,” Gerson said, saying that he had used all
volunteers to collect over 7,000 signatures, while other candidates
paid signature gatherers. “That’s wrong.”

Earlier, Gerson's campaign consultant, George Arzt, told City Hall News, that he would take legal
action against the board if he was not reinstated.The Gotham Gazette is reporting that a Board of Elections appeal hearing will take place on Monday.

The Village Voice speculates that Gleason and Margaret Chin would have the most to gain if Gerson does not get back on the ballot.

Gerson is running for a third term, made possible by the extension of term limits. The Democratic Primary is September 15th.

First District Council Race: Ballot Bingo

The last few days we've been following the utterly bizarre hazing ritual candidates for public office must go through in order to qualify for the New York City ballot. A few (emphasis on "few") Lo-Down readers left us comments suggesting that City Council candidate PJ Kim was somehow circumventing the rules. Last Friday, Kim said he submitted petitions with about 5500 signatures to get on the September Primary ballot. One guy alleged that Kim had "loads of signatures from the boroughs and upper Manhattan."  When I asked what evidence he had, the poster (DowntownGuy) responded:


A
neighbor who went to the Board of Elections told me that he saw many
signatures outside the district, many more than the other candidates
had. Pages and pages, in fact. A few are normal, but not 'pages and
pages'. If you have the time, I respectfully suggest you go to the Board and check it out to get to the bottom.

I took DowntownGuy up on that challenge yesterday. Shuttling between two Elections Board offices on Lower Broadway, I had a look at Pj Kim's petitions. While it's true that there were some signatures from outside the district (not allowed), there were certainly not "loads" of them- not enough to disqualify a candidate submitting more than five times the required number of signatures.

While I was there, I decided to take a look at the objections that had been filed against District 1 Council candidates. Only PJ Kim and Arthur Gregory's petitions appear to face challenges. Interestingly, it seems that at least one of the objections may be tied to operatives from another First District campaign. We'll know more next Monday, when objectors must file  detailed documentation.

As City Hall News explained yesterday, this is politics as usual in New York City: "Some candidate, usually for political
gain (though insisting that the move is simply standing up for
principle), finds a staffer or friend to stand in on a challenge to the
signatures.

For his part Pj Kim told supporters via Facebook and Twitter, that he had "decided not to challenge the nominating
petitions of any other candidates for this seat. We want our campaign
to be focused on the issues and not on the usual personal political
games
."

Stay tuned.