Feb. 1, 2021 By Christina Santucci
More than two dozen political candidates from Queens say that gathering signatures to get on the ballot is too dangerous during the pandemic and want city and state officials to suspend the requirement.
The group penned a letter Jan. 27 that was sent to the governor, the mayor and other Democratic leaders calling on them to cancel petitioning requirements needed for candidates to get on the ballot.
The letter was signed by more than 100 candidates running for office in the city as well as grassroots advocacy groups.
“Collecting signatures for a successful designating petition creates an unacceptable risk of exposure to COVID-19 for candidates, their staff and volunteers, and political club members through what are essentially hundreds of thousands of mandated, non-socially distanced interactions,” the letter reads.
The letter says that the signature requirement needs to be cancelled to ensure public safety.
“Under normal circumstances, we would not advocate for such a radical change as doing away with petitioning; collecting valid signatures for designating petitions is an important part of protecting the integrity of our elections,” the letter reads.
The letter was sent a day before the state moved to lower the number of required signatures, but those behind the #SafetyoverSignatures push say it’s still not enough.
“Exposure is exposure is exposure,” said Erica Vladimer, who helped bring the candidates together to sign the letter. “What the legislature passed and the governor signed still requires people to put themselves and anyone they come in contact with at risk.”
A bill signed into law by Governor Andrew Cuomo Thursday has reduced the number of signatures required by 70 percent.
The number of signatures required to get on the ballot varies by office but is less for local races. Candidates for City Council now need 270 signatures.
The bill also adjusted the political calendar so that gathering signatures on designating petitions begins March 2 – instead of Feb. 23 – and petition filing will take place from March 22 to 25 instead of March 29 to April 1.
Organizers of the push to cancel signature requirements said their letter had 260 supporters when it was sent Wednesday. An estimated 350 individuals and organizations had signed onto the request as of Sunday, Vladimir said.
Among the signatories of the letter are Council Member Jimmy Van Brammer, who is running for Queens borough president, and western Queens Council candidates Tiffany Cabán, Evie Hantzopoulos, Jaslin Kaur, Shekar Krishnan, Alfonzo Quiroz, and Carolyn Tran.
“With hundreds of candidates collecting thousands of signatures, it’s a contact tracing nightmare that puts the public at high risk at a time when public health experts are telling us to stay home. The only responsible thing to do is cancel petitioning,” Van Bramer said in a statement Thursday.