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ALBANY — A New York judge dismissed a lawsuit filed against Gov. Cuomo by Public Advocate Jumaane Williams and dozens of City Council candidates calling for the elimination of campaign petitioning requirements.
State Supreme Court Justice Frank Nervo ruled Tuesday that the filers failed to show that state law requiring in-person signatures to get on the ballot is unconstitutional, even if they have legitimate fears about the spread of COVID.
“The amendments to the election law reducing the number of signatories for a candidate’s petition have a rational basis, namely the impact of COVID-19,” Nervo said. “That the plaintiffs would address the impact of COVID-19 differently, is a disagreement of judgment, not constitutionality.”
State lawmakers already lowered the number of signatures needed by about 70% in January, meaning mayoral candidates now must gather a minimum of 2,500 and City Council candidates have to collect 270 signatures from registered voters to gain a spot on the ballot.
Volunteers and candidates often go door-to-door in order to gather signatures from voters, a process some fear could be particularly risky during the pandemic.
Citing concerns about COVID, more than 100 political candidates and their supporters —including Williams, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, mayoral candidate Maya Wiley, several City Council members and dozens of others sued Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio over the issue.
They cited other states such as New Jersey that have fully canceled petitions amid the pandemic.
Nervo said it wouldn’t make sense for the court to order the Legislature or executive readdress the issue given the actions already taken.
“There is no dispute that the impacts of COVID-19 have made in-person petitioning more difficult and demand plaintiffs and signatories take additional safety measures not required in prior years,” he wrote. “However, legislators from across the State have determined that reducing the number of signatories required on a petition is the appropriate response to these impacts.”