Paper Weights and Payback, as Board of Elections Preps for Petition Challenges

Paper Weights and Payback, as Board of Elections Preps for Petition Challenges

August 02, 2011 at 10:44 am

How much are a few pieces of paper really supposed to weigh?

That’s the question Jonathan Judge, a disbelieving Brooklyn county committee candidate, was asking yesterday after learning that the Board of Elections was throwing him off the ballot over a failed “weight test.” That’s apparently an antiquated part of election law requiring the weighing of petitions to determine the number of signatures.

Since Judge only needed a few signatures, and his petitions were only a couple of pages long, Judge has no ideas how he violated the law; the Board provided no further information. And Judge is unlikely to get any answers, since he is currently in Canada and will not be able to attend a Board of Elections hearing today to make a case.

“I would like to bring in three scales of my own and test them, and inspect their scale,” said Judge, the former president of the Brooklyn Young Republicans, a group at odds with leadership of the Brooklyn Republican Party. “This is probably the powers that be in the Brooklyn Republican Party working against me.”

Judge is far from the only one awaiting trial at today’s Board of Elections hearing, where political parties in all five boroughs will contest the petitions of district leader and county committee candidates, after which the 10 city election commissioners will vote on whether to allow them to run. The Board itself is bringing action against 45 candidates, while dozens of other candidates are bringing hundreds more.

For political novices, New York’s maze of arcane election laws makes running for office nearly impossible. But even the pros can get tripped up. Just ask Queens Republican chairman Phil Ragusa, who has been involved in Queens politics for the better part of two decades.

In mid-July,Ragusa filed paperwork with the Board of Election listing himself as the “objector” against 244 different county committee candidates. The candidates were aligned with former Councilman Tom Ognibene, who is running to unseat Ragusa as the county party chairman.

But the Board of Elections found that Ragusa did not have legal standing to file many of the objections, since he does not live in the same Assembly district as the candidates he is challenging. Ognibene’s allies, including crack petition challenger and GOP operative John Haggerty, did not make the same error, potentially giving Ognibene a boost in his efforts to unseat Ragusa.

The internal politics at the board seem to have recently tilted against the Queens GOP over a feud with Bronx Republicans. A Ragusa spokesman said the Queens Republicans would prevail if the Board’s ruling was appealed and Ragusa’s challenges were legal.

“This is example of the board putting itself separate, above the election law,” said Queens Republican spokesman Robert Hornak.

Read the full post at City Hall News.