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Rochester, NY is holding a special election for Mayor after former Mayor Robert Duffy won election as Lieutenant Governor. In New York, special elections do not have primaries and independents must collect the same number of signatures as in a general election, but have only two weeks to do so instead of six.
New York is one of three states, the others being Illinois and Pennsylvania, where challenging an opponent’s petitions has become a commonplace practice. Politicians find it easier to knock their opponents off the ballot, than to win the favor of voters with ideas.
As happens all too often, all independent nominating petitions were invalidated by challenges. In New York officially recognized parties need to collect zero signatures in a special election, so three candidates will appear on the ballot: Green Party candidate Alex White, Democratic Party candidate Tom Richards, and Working Families Party candidate William Johnson.
Johnson attempted to also secure an independent line, but failed when Nichole Malec, an aide for Tom Richards’ campaign, successfully filed objections to more than 700 signatures on Johnson’s petitions.
Another candidate with strong community support, Ann Lewis, managed to collect almost 1,900 signatures in two weeks in the middle of February. Johnson campaign manager Mitch Rowe filed objections to Lewis’ petitions, leaving her with only 1,009 out of the 1,500 necessary to secure an independent line.
Alex White, who was knocked off the ballot for Mayor in 2009, leaving the race uncontested, did not challenge anyone and offered to help Lewis defend her petitions. When asked why he chose to do so, White said: “If my experience in this election has proven anything, it is that more voices produce better elections. To unnecessarily restrict people’s choices in elections grievously hurts our society.”
Free & Equal salutes Alex White for being the only candidate on the ballot in this race to respect the principles of democracy.
“If this had been a normal election with six weeks to gather signatures, or if a primary had been allowed with its smaller 1,000 signature requirement, none of these challenges would have succeeded. Only due to New York’s unfair special election law was this possible. Shame on Richards and Johnson for their undemocratic actions and their dissembling on this issue,” said Free & Equal Founder and President Christina Tobin.
You can find previous IPR coverage of the Rochester mayoral contest here.