Ballot Access Reform to Give Voters a Choice in Elections Under Legislation by Council Members Kallos, Cabrera, Reynoso

03/22/2016

New York, NY – New Yorkers would have more choices at the polls, with a proposal to automatically grant ballot access to candidates who qualify for public dollars under the campaign finance system, Int. 1129, introduced today by Council Members Ben Kallos, Fernando Cabrera, and Antonio Reynoso.
 
“Ballot access reform is more than a century overdue. Democracy must mean giving voters more than one ‘choice’ on the ballot,” said Council Member Ben Kallos, Chair of Committee on Governmental Operations with oversight of campaign finance and elections. “Candidates who receive public matching will have the funds they need to be competitive and should get on the ballot.”

“Ballet access reform is a critical part of improving our democratic process in New York City. Requiring a minimum number of signatures is a flawed approach to measuring public support of candidates for elected office. I thank my colleague, Council Member Ben Kallos, for spearheading legislation to make the measure of support more meaningful,” said Council Member Fernando Cabrera.

“I am supportive of any efforts toward campaign finance reform that help take big money and special interests out of politics.  Our democracy should be accessible to everyone, and our current system is making it increasingly difficult for people from lower income communities, who may not have access to large donors, to participate. This proposal would help open up new opportunities,” said Council Member Antonio Reynoso.
 
Local elections in New York City often leave voters perplexed with only one choice, in part because of archaic ballot access laws dating back to the 1800s. New York is one of only 13 states where the only means to get on the ballot is by meeting a threshold of signatures according to Gotham Gazette. Over a period of 37 days, prospective candidates must collect between 450 and 3,750 signatures to appear on the ballot. According to Gotham Gazette, this process has given rise to “Ballot Bumping” by political clubs and a cottage industry of lawyers hired by campaigns to knock their opponents off the ballot, often on technicalities like forgetting to include a zip code along with an address, or the date at the top of signature page.
 
The legislation would allow candidates to obtain entry onto the ballot by meeting the minimum threshold to receive public funds through the City’s campaign finance system:

 Petition
Signatures
Minimum No. ContributionsMinimum Threshold
City Council45075 In-District $5,000
Borough President2,000100 In-Borough $10,000 - $50,094 by Borough
Comptroller / Public Advocate3,750500 $125,000
Mayor3,7501,000 $250,000
 

This alternative is a more meaningful measure of a candidate’s support in his or her district, eliminates frivolous lawsuits and ballot challenges, and opens up the process.
 
Under the current law, Mayor Bill de Blasio almost never made the ballot. When he mounted his campaign for Public Advocate in 2009, De Blasio was temporarily removed from the ballot due to a minor clerical error. Despite having demonstrated public support by collecting over 100,000 signatures and meeting the threshold for public matching, he was almost blocked from running for Public Advocate.