Know the details: Signing political petitions
It’s that time of year. Registered voters are being approached by candidates seeking signatures for designating petitions to appear on the ballot for this year’s election. Prospective candidates for local offices must secure signatures of a percentage of the voters registered in their party within the jurisdiction of the office they are seeking. Yates County Election Commissioners Amy Daines (R) and Robert Brechko (D) have provided information about the petition process.
Designating Petition Process
The Designating petition process is the means by which political parties choose their candidates for office. If there are more candidates than available positions, a primary election will be held to determine who is named on the general election Ballot in November.
The Designating Petition process is underway from now through July 13. A potential candidate must be a registered voter in the party of the designating petition to seek signatures under that party’s name, or the potential candidate must receive permission from the party to run on the party line.
There are eight state-recognized parties, of which the Republicans and Democrats have the vast majority of registered voters in Yates County, with Republicans totaling over 6,800 and Democrats totaling 3,413.
Candidates will often go to places where they have historically met friends and supporters and pass their petitions around the table. After that, it is good old shoe leather in the villages and road trips in the countryside and knocking on doors.
Candidates for state, countywide or legislative positions have to depend on larger organizations to visit more voters.
Signing a petition
The voter who wishes to support a candidate in their party by signing a petition must use the signature they used to register as a voter. It is the official record against which a petition signature is compared. Normally, it is the person’s legal signature and recently, it is the signature used to register a car or obtain a new or renewed driver’s license.
When signing a petition the date when the petition is signed must be entered to the left of the signature. The petition carrier (witness) can enter the date, complete the address and print the signor’s name. Legibility of the printed name is key to finding the person in the lists of registered voters should a challenge occur.
One signature per office
At the town and county legislative district level, there are often multiple openings for legislator or council members. A voter can sign for as many candidates listed on petitions as there are openings for that position.
Some petitions may have multiple names for the same position. For example, if three council seats are to be elected three names on one sheet equals three petitions, or there can be three separate sheets with three different names.
In other words, you may only sign one petition for the office of Yates County Treasurer because that is a solitary office. But in some towns and legislative district where more than one seat will be up for election, you may sign one petition for each seat. If there are three seats up for election, you may sign three different petitions.
Many people are not affiliated with any party or chose to be an Independent (not to be confused with the Independence party, which some people have mistakenly registered themselves as. If you want to know if this affects you, contact the Board of Elections at 315-536-5135). An unaffiliated voter can only support a designated party candidate if the candidate also runs as an Independent. Candidates who also run independently circulate petitions from July 11 to Aug. 23. The Independent Petition Process will be explained closer to that time period.
Candidates must ensure their petitions are signed properly and that people carrying a petition for the candidate are doing it correctly. Voters have to be sure to support their candidates properly as well. In a tight race, errors can be costly.
The Yates County Board of Elections does not track who has picked up petitions to circulate because the petition forms are also available online, says Republican Commissioner Amy Daines.
Daines says there are a few things voters should be aware of when asked to sign a petition. “I want to reiterate how much work is involved going door-to-door. Voters should not sign a petition without an individual witnessing their signature.”
She also advises:
• Do not sign a petition that is laying by a cash register or on a counter.
• A voter should never sign for their spouse
• All signers should sign their name (Jane Smith vs. Mrs. Smith).
After petitions are filed
After the petitions are filed with the Board of Elections, they are available for public review and perhaps challenge. Any person can challenge a petition if they want to try to keep the candidate off the ballot and out of the race. Normally, in Yates County, this is a rare event, though it will happen in tight races. Petition signatures can be challenged for many reasons, and support for the candidate is reduced. In a closely contested race challenges could remove a candidate from the primary or the general election.
If more than one potential candidate files a petition for an office, their names will appear on the primary ballot in September. The winner of the primary secures the party line on the November General Election ballot.
For more information about Yates County Board of Elections, visit www.YatesCounty.org and find the Board of Elections page. For more information about New York State Election Laws, visit www.elections.ny.gov.