Even as Governor Cuomo and local leaders are calling on New Yorkers to shelter in place, the Governor has just signed into law a measure that will endanger hundreds of New Yorkers and State Employees, forcing them to crowd into a small space over the next two days.

We applauded the Governor’s decision last week to curtail the petitioning period in the interest of public health, but now Albany has created another threat to public safety and democracy.

State Law A10151, passed March 18, mandates candidates have from March 17 through March 20 to file their paperwork (the previous filing period was March 30 through April 2).Though the bill was introduced last week, it was not passed nor signed into law until half of the four-day window had already passed. The BOE did not notify the public until after 9pm on March 18. This sudden shortening eliminates a mail-in option, forcing candidates to appear in person — in the midst of a global pandemic.

This is a major public health concern as well as a blow to democracy. In NYC, filing in-person requires candidates to wait in line, in cramped quarters, at the NYC Board of Elections’ Lower Manhattan Office. With thousands of people running for lower level party offices, the site will be dangerously overcrowded.

We are calling on Governor Cuomo and the New York State Legislature to:

  1. Create a two-week window for submitting petitions:
    The BOE must use this time to allow candidates to schedule appointment times so applicants can maintain the appropriate social distancing of 6-feet recommended by public health officials.
  2. Accept mail-in petitions as long as the postmark date is within the legal filing window:
    Rather than asking candidates to do the impossible and have mail-in petitions be received at the BOE office by a date that is nearly past.

Grassroots Candidates React:

“Anyone who’s ever gone through this process knows how narrow the hallway and cramped the reception areas are — in normal times, it is uncomfortably close. As a healthcare professional, I feel strongly that this is not safe — not for candidates, not for BOE workers.”
— Maria Kaufer, Queens Democratic County Committee Member and candidate for Democratic District Leader and Judicial Delegate, Assembly District 28 (Rego Park, Forest Hills, Glendale, Kew Gardens, Richmond Hill)

“As a first-time candidate who is living with an underlying health condition, this is an incredibly disturbing decision. The purported justification for this bill is the ‘state emergency caused by the coronavirus pandemic,’ but the result exacerbates the crisis, while depressing civic participation. I write legislation and regulations for a living, and it boggles my mind that the State could enact a law with a time period for action in which half the time has already passed.”
— Daniel Y. Shin, Candidate for Queens Democratic County Committee, Election District 27, Assembly District 34 (Jackson Heights)

“As a parent of two small children, appearing in person with short notice would normally be extremely difficult. But in the middle of a pandemic, with schools closed — am I to bring my children, and possibly expose them? What if my kids are carriers and they endanger older adults waiting in line? I should not have to choose between representing my community and endangering my family and others.”
— Dawn Siff, Candidate for Democratic District Leader, Assembly District 34 (Jackson Heights, East Elmhurst, Elmhurst, Corona)

“Like many people citywide, I am a regular citizen running for County Committee this year. I have petitioned and would like to submit my completed paperwork. Yet now, the only way to do so would pose a health risk to me, every other candidate, and all of the Board of Election workers. This is not only a barrier to democracy, but irresponsible on the part of our legislature to require it. I should be able to submit without going in person, especially in the midst of a pandemic.”
— Kate Menken, Candidate for Queens Democratic County Committee, Election District 19, Assembly District 39 (Jackson Heights).

Written by

We are members of the Queens Democratic County Committee working to make this elected body more democratic, transparent, inclusive, accountable, and accessible.

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