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2019 candidate petitions need fewer signatures

Senate passes signature reduction bill for one year only

The state Senate is sending the governor a bill reducing the petition signatures required for local primary and general election ballots for this election cycle — and this election cycle only.

The bill was previously sponsored by Assemblyman Billy Jones, D-Chateaugay, and passed the Assembly Jan. 28 with a vote from Assemblyman Dan Stec, R-Queensbury. In the Senate, Sen. Betty Little, R-Queensbury, co-sponsored the measure, which reduces the necessary number of signatures by one-quarter, with the exception of candidates running in New York City, to give candidates the ability to organize their campaigns before the new deadlines.

In January, the Legislature passed — and Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed — a slew of election reforms. One of these moved the state and local primary elections from September, consolidating them with the federal primary in the fourth week in June.

“This was done to save taxpayers money by combining the state and federal primaries,” Jones wrote in a press release in January, “But for local candidates hoping to run in 2019, this change drastically sped up the election calendar. My bill will prevent the primary change from creating unnecessary headaches so people planning to run and stand up for their communities can do so without new hoops to jump through.”

Major-party candidates can start gathering signatures Feb. 26, and they must be filed between April 1 and 4. Independent signature gathering starts April 16 and must be filed between May 21 and 28.

With the entire election calendar shifting earlier, candidates are already announcing their runs, and will begin petitioning in just a few weeks.

“In years past, a September primary date for state and local elections triggered the petition process to begin in June,” said Little. “This year, and going forward, the June primary will mean the petition process starts in late February. Requiring fewer signatures this year will help those running for local office adjust to this change.”

In the North Country, Franklin County Republican Election Commissioner Tracy Sparks said many residents are “snowbirds” and may not be in town to sign petitions, and that travel in the snow can be sluggish and dangerous.

“Now we have to have the governor sign it,” Sparks said.

“It’s going to have to move pretty fast, because the 26th is coming,” Tupper Lake village Mayor Paul Maroun said. “Nobody has an idea what the governor’s thinking.”

Sparks said Cuomo has 10 days to sign the bill into law as of Tuesday.