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Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Confused Candidates Struggle Through Petition Process; Miguel Santana Knocked Off Ballot

As the Sept. 15 primaries approach, some candidates are questioning how democratic the New York City election system is, including Miguel Santana, a candidate in the 14th City Council District, who was kicked off the ballot this morning.

Technically, any registered New York City resident can run for office with the support of 900 petitions signed by registered voters. However, the right number of signatures doesn't guarantee a candidate a coveted spot on the New York City Board of Elections (BOE) ballot.

This week, the BOE is in court to evaluate the legality of the candidates’ petitions and determine which candidates will be placed on the September primary ballot.

Here’s what the process involves:

Each candidate running for office needs to file at least 900 signed petitions from registered residents within their district. Easy enough, right? Not at all. In fact, the entire process is so wrapped up in lines of red tape that most candidates hire lawyers to untangle their web of confusion.

After the candidates turn in their 900 petitions in to the BOE, any registered resident can file an objection to the petition. The objection claims that the candidate’s petitions are not legal. After this objection is filed, the objector has a few days to file a specific objection, or a statement declaring why a certain number of petitions are invalid.

The specific objection is then shuffled on to the Bronx Supreme Court where a judge assigns a referee to oversee the candidate’s case. Next, the BOE sorts through the petitions and objections and determines the number of valid petitions. The candidate has the chance to go into the BOE and defend their petitions, but it is still up to the referee to decide which petitions are valid. If the candidate does not have 900 valid signatures by the end of the process, they are kicked off the ballot.

Minor filing mistakes such as the misspelling a street name or an illegible signature could render a petition unusable. Also, many candidates manipulate the system, critics say, by hiring a lawyer to nitpick through another candidate’s signed petitions and find legal irregularities.

If the candidate manages to defend their petitions, they still wasted valuable campaigning time trapped in a courtroom for a number of days in August, one month before the election.

The petition process is not always this complicated. For instance, if no objections are filed, the BOE does not check the legality of the petitions. Also, many objectors to the candidate’s petitions never get around to filing specific objections and sending the candidates to court.

Unfortunately, this was not the case for political newcomer Miguel Santana, a former candidate for the 14th District City Council. This morning, Santana was kicked off the primary ballot. Despite the letdown, Santana says, “I’m at peace that our campaign did the best to try to get on the ballot.”

Although all of the candidates running for District 14 City Council received objections, Santana was the only candidate to receive specific objections. Santana’s run for City Council ended when the BOE determined that only 878 petitions were valid.

As Santana walks away from the election 22 petitions short, he says, “I feel the process itself disenfranchises the voters. It is easier to knock people off the ballot than to facilitate an opportunity for a new candidate."

Although disenfranchisement is a strong word, Santana's disappointment with the system does have some claim. The fact remains that if someone did not want a candidate to be on the ballot, they could hire a lawyer to sort through each petition and argue that signatures are forgeries because the handwriting is too similar. Even if the candidate did get on the ballot, their time spent in court deprived them of time that could have been spent campaigning. Everyday voters have no control over this process.

Santana thinks the entire petitioning process needs to be reformed. “The money spent on this process could be better used in the community. The community should be the one that benefits at the end of this process.”

What do you think? Is the petitioning process democratic? It is right for the court and lawyers to decide the candidates instead of the voters?


  1. The ballot process in NYC is absolutely undemocratic and designed to keep the dinosaurs in power. It has to be reformed from the inside out however. Only with specific experience with ballot wars in NYC can a candidate get on the ballot successfully.

  2. Reform will never occur. Bronx Incumbents win in this process because they have the ability to utilize their member items funds to launder to election lawyers, to knock candidates off the ballot. A challenge can cost upwards of ten thousand dollars or more to defend. It is easy to claim that all the signatures on a petition are fraudulent. It is costly to say they are not. Any emerging candidate faces this pit fall, and the next candidacy faces another layer of fortified incumbency at the Bronx Board of Elections, then you face referees that are County political appointments, chosen by Judges that finance slates. That is why elected officials must get indicted instead. Preferably by the FBI.

  3. Yudelka Tapia is the only candidate without an establishment behind her (i.e.: County, incumbency) that is still in the race. I think that is noteworthy because it is not easy to stay on the ballot in the Bronx, as this article points out. She may not be the perfect candidate, but the truth is that given the choices (an incumbent with a more than 50% absence rate & a candidate with SERIOUS voting and residency issues), she is the only acceptable choice.

    I sincerely hope that she communicates her message to the voters and tells them the truth, because if she does, she will undoubtedly be the community's choice.

  4. To the Bronx News Network:

    Will your blog be doing candidate profiles for the 14th District now that the candidates are official?

  5. Santana and all of the other candidates were full awared of the petition process from the beginning. They are all under the same rules. Community support comes through many ways, including financial support. If a candidate does not have the $ to deal with petition process issues, he or she should consider the fact that he/she has not received the community support to go through the entire candidency process. I did not hear any of the candidates cry foul before the petition process began. It is only when someone does not make it in the ballot that you hear them talk. Can the process be better? Yes.

    Why is Yudelka's name mentioned in this blog when we are trying to have a noble discussion regarding the petition process? Please stop it. You keep acting desperate.

  6. You can call me James......James Bond!!August 6, 2009 at 1:34:00 AM EDT

    I totally agree with anonymous above 100% this all means (in plain english) that Santana did not make the ballot and now he is crying about the system and the process. It just shows that he cannot take his insufficient signatures and keep it moving. I mean did he really think he had a chance??....let alone not being endorsed by anyone and having trouble with money this whole race please, just another cry baby running for office......waitt....did I say I agreed with anonymous above 100%??.....0oh snap!....I did....he's right, you Yudelka freaks are d-e-s-p-e-r-a-t-e!!!...I'm 0Ut!!...

  7. Miguel had matching funds up to fifty thousand dollars. The fact that he was able to comply with CFB makes him a better candidate. But matching funds do not qualify the expense for an election lawyer. That is why county candidates need phony non-profits to launder their election lawyer costs, way in advance of the petition period. If you are a lonely trooper for county then you are not aware of this.....But, Santana had the signatures, and the matching funds.

  8. Santana would have to continue to fight it with the board of elections. How will this effect his future when running for assemblyman?

  9. Re: the question about candidate profiles, the answer is yes. They'll run in our papers and on their respective Web sites, and we'll link to them on the blog.

  10. To annonymous or shall we say Anthony Rivieccio! Self prcoclaimed campaign manager for Yudelka Tapia. I agree what does this blog have to do with her? Stop enabling the prodical child, who is crying for attention and she is not getting it. How much is she paying you? Stay on the topic(s).

  11. Dear Anonymous your statement "They are all under the same rules" holds true only when the rules are equitably applied to all candidates not when the rules are applied to single out one candidate. otherwise the rules are flawed.

    James Bond, Santana was endorsed by the Communications Workers of America Local 1180 and the Professional Staff Congress/CUNY.

    This story and thought provoking questions was designed to stimulate a healthy discussion on the Ballot Access process.

    Please add your insights and or solutions...

  12. As for Santana's future, the Sky's the limit. He has many options...

  13. Just like Yudelka, Santana will continue to run, run, and run....let's see when he actually wins.

  14. The rules can be equially applied if you come prepare to run a well financed and prepared campaign. If you don't have the resources, you need to ask yourself as to why...um...the support is not there. Santana tried, but was not able to do it this time. It is not a mark of shame. He should be commended for making it as far as he did. My humble advice is to properly network with the right people who have a strong base in the community. One more thing, he needs to come out of the influence of Richard Soto, who simply used him for his personal gain. Miguel is simply one more victim of Soto's preying and controling tendencies.

  15. Miguel even if we are not on speaking terms i am sorry to hear about ALL this! J


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