New York CIty Council Member Ben Kallos

New York Daily News Petition gathering makes no sense during COVID outbreak, say NYC Council Members by Shant Shahrigian

Petition gathering makes no sense during COVID outbreak, say NYC Council Members

The coronavirus outbreak gives renewed importance to a bill ending the petition-gathering part of qualifying for local elections, says Councilman Ben Kallos (D-Manhattan).

Under a bill he introduced in 2016, the city would end the requirement for candidates for City Council and other offices to gather signatures of support in order to run.

Instead, Kallos says raising enough cash to qualify for matching funds from the city’s Campaign Finance Board should suffice.

“On the list of bad ideas to do during a pandemic is running around asking people to sign a piece of paper so that folks can get on the ballot,” Kallos told the Daily News on Monday.

“We’re going to have hundreds of people running for City Council in 2021,” he continued. “The idea that we’re going to have millions of people touching the same pens, signing the same petition boards — it’s looking for trouble, even if we do it safely.”

The coronavirus outbreak prompted Gov. Cuomo to suspend the petition-gathering process and reduce the required number of signatures to get on the ballot in June primaries for Congress, the state legislature and judgeships.

Kallos said the same logic should apply to upcoming races in the city. He added that it is harder to qualify for matching funds — City Council candidates have to get at least 75 contributions of $10 or more from people in their district and raise at least $5,000 — than it is to get signatures.

“A contribution of $10 or more from somebody in the neighborhood is a greater sign of support than somebody who’s willing to sign a petition,” said Kallos, who’s running for Manhattan borough president next year.

For years, petition gathering has bedeviled novice candidates, who can easily get disqualified for failing to dot their Is and cross their Ts, in particular.

While the bill has just four co-sponsors, Councilman Fernando Cabrera (D-Bronx), who chairs the Council’s Committee on Governmental Operations, said he would aim to schedule a hearing on the bill in time to pass it before next year’s primaries.

“If we’re already looking at shutting down schools and perhaps businesses, it’s kind of inconsistent asking people to go out there who could potentially spread the virus all over the place going to so many doors,” he said.

Council Speaker Corey Johnson (D-Manhattan) declined to state whether he supports the bill.

“This bill ... is going through the legislative process,” his spokeswoman Jennifer Fermino said in a brief statement.

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