Updated 07/24/2009 10:55 PM
Councilman Appeals For Spot On Public Advocate Ballot
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Attorneys from City Councilman Bill de Blasio filed court papers Friday to fight the Board of Election's decision to knock him off the ballot in the public advocate race.
According to the BOE, de Blasio was removed because of a mistake in what's called the "curing" process. Candidates are required to submit a cover sheet with their petitions and there's no room for error.
Officials say de Blasio's cover sheet said he had 131 volumes of petitions, instead of 132.
Ironically, de Blasio's campaign had more than the 132 volumes needed. In total, the councilman had 125,000 signatures. To get on the ballot, a candidate needs just 7,500 signatures.
"To me, what's so distressing here is that our laws allow a technicality to deprive ballot access to a legitimate candidate," said de Blasio. "And that the Board of Elections was so inflexible in the way they applied the law."
BOE officials say the error was made after the De Blasio campaign was given an opportunity to correct another minor mistake on its petitions.
"The amended cover sheet was not correct, and our rules, reflected by the election laws of New York State, don't allow us to give a third opportunity to a candidate, or even a second opportunity," said BOE Commissioner J.C. Polanco.
"It's crazy. Sometimes you wonder how arcane it could possibly be in this city and this state that we're still dealing with a ballot access system that feels like it's not from this last century but the one before that," said de Blasio.
Critics of the BOE say de Blasio's situation highlights why major changes are needed.
"The law is established to essentially keep people off the ballot and to make the races as uncompetitive as possible, and this is a fine example," said Dick Dadey of the Citizens Union. "There wasn't any fraud committed here. It was a simple administrative error."
Some of the councilman's constituents in Fort Hamilton also say there should be some wiggle room.
"I think it's kind of silly to kick him off just because of a typo," said one constituent. "I mean, he should have a chance to you know, fix it. I guess he had a chance to fix it, but he did it again. I mean, people make mistakes; let's be honest."
"Rules are always made to be broken," said another. "That's ridiculous. It's ridiculous, a typo. We all have typos."
The potential for such errors is the reason candidates surround themselves with high-powered election lawyers. De Blasio has already paid his lawyer, Henry Berger, nearly $30,000 this election cycle.
De Blasio and Berger are now gearing up for a legal fight, which will likely be a distraction during a time when the councilman would rather be on the campaign trail.