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:
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
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
The other day, we reported on the petitioning deadline for the candidates competing to represent District 1 on the New York City Council. One candidate, PJ Kim, held a brief “press conference” outside the Board of Elections office on lower Broadway, heralding the 5500 signatures his campaign collected to get on the September Primary Election ballot. A few Lo-Down readers are obviously not PJ Kim fans. “DowntownGuy” alleged that some of Kim’s signatures came from people who don’t live in the district. “Dadude,” who also apparently runs the “Get Rid of Gerson” blog, claimed Kim used “non-registered democrats” to collect signatures. There were also comments from supporters of Kim. “Taosing@gmail.com” said, “he was out there, 7 days a week, from 8AM until 10PM meeting voters and listening to their concerns.”
This discussion probably tells us more about the city’s byzantine petitioning law than it does PJ Kim. To get on the ballot, City Council candidates must collect 900 signatures, but to protect against challenges, they usually gather about five times that number. This morning, City Hall News pointed out the lunacy of a system in which the Elections Board does very little to review the validity of petitions, unless there’s a challenge:
Some challenges are done with devious intentions, meant to propel underhanded political ends. True, there are regularly legitimate questions to be raised. But the greatest problem is with the Board of Elections’ officially blasé attitude to the paperwork received unless a complaint is raised. Everyone involved should be ashamed of a system that does not force the Board to check every signature on every ballot petition received—rudimentary computer programs would make this incredibly simple—and then automatically determine who has qualified for the ballot and who has not. There would not be much to argue about, except in cases where, perhaps, some handwriting was unclear.
But, in the current system, there’s plenty to argue about – and in a city in which politics is a contact sport, the outcome is predictable:
…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. The connections are very quickly raised, and no matter what happens, the candidate responsible for the challenging draws the ire of reform groups and all but forfeits the chances of getting endorsed by
the New York Times. In other words, ulterior motive or not, a person who forces the Board of Elections to perform what should be a standard review risks severe political consequences. And no one can reasonably claim that this is how a proper system of government should operate.
The deadline to file complaints is midnight tonight. We’ll be following the intrigue, as the District 1 race takes more twists and turns.
Yesterday was the deadline for City Council candidates to turn in their petitions to get on the September Primary Election ballot. Each candidate is required to submit 900 signatures, but they usually turn in a lot more than that in case there are challenges. We heard from three of the challengers (taking on Councilman Alan Gerson) in the District 1 race. Margaret Chin and Pete Gleason’s campaigns both said they submitted about 5-thousand signatures, while Councilman Gerson collected over 7-thousand signatures. PJ Kim made a mini-media event out of his filing late yesterday afternoon. Here’s what he had to say moments before handing in his petitions, containing 5500 signatures, at the city’s Board of Elections office :