Reforming Albany, Step 1: Get on the Ballot

Time to storm the capitol.

If you know someone who believes in livable streets and is pondering a run for office, here’s an encouraging piece of information: It only take 500 signatures to get on the Democratic primary ballot for a State Assembly seat.

The signature requirements [PDF] are posted on the Board of Elections web site, along with the 2008 political calendar [PDF]. The second page of the calendar has a handy set of deadlines for "becoming a candidate." Those 500 signatures have to be submitted by July 10th, according to our reading (we put a request in to the Board of Elections to confirm). The calendar also lists signature requirements for candidates running for City Council (900) and State Senate (1000).

In New York City the Democratic primary is, of course, where most of the action takes place. The primaries will be held on Tuesday, September 9th, and State Assembly and Senate seats are up for grabs this year. Deborah Glick, Hakeem Jeffries, and Joan Millman, among other legislators who failed to support congestion pricing when it mattered, are currently running unopposed, according to Gotham Gazette’s "Who’s Running for What?" feature. State Assembly incumbents are notoriously difficult to unseat. It’ll be hard work and expensive and will probably take more than one election campaign. But first, collecting those 500 signatures will make them a little less comfortable in Albany — and it could be enough to get the backing of the New York Times.

Photo: stgermh/Flickr

  • Larry Littlefield

    Discouraging information — candidates routinely collect three times that many, because signatures can be disqualified for a number of infractions, real and imagined, and there are lots of other rules and formats to comply with, and forms to file.

    The system is designed to prevent people, especially those who cannot toss off $thousands for a lawyer, off the ballot. Beware, or get stuffed at Step One. If the incumbents are worried, it is virtually illegal for an unauthorized person to run for office in New York State.

    If Streetsblogger is serious about helping people run, it should get one of the experts (Brennan Center perhaps?) to post the real requirements here — the form to use, who can collect, required information (election district?) and where to get it, notarization, binding, titles, certificates of acceptance, campaign finance disclosure, personal finance disclosure, limits (real and fake) on where you can campaign, etc.

    And remember who appoints the judges.

  • Monay

    Serious? Depending on the district, you probably need to raise a couple hundred thousand to have a really good shot. The assembly incumbents will get heavy support from the unions and have been handing out member item pork for years to various community groups for years. These people will vote in the primaries to keep their beaks in the money.

  • To echo what Larry said, it would be very helpful to have stories from people who have successfully and unsuccessfully challenged incumbent Assembly members, both in primary and general elections, so that those who are considering running or backing an insurgent candidate know the full extent of what they’re up against.

  • epkwy

    And regrettably the endorsement of the TImes pulls little weight in many communities: I recall watching with particular interest the special election to fill Yvette Clarke’s city council seat. The Times-endorsed candidate, Jesse Hamilton, is a friend of mine, but he lost out handily.

  • Larry Littlefield

    You can read about my own Don Quixote attempt here…

    if you want to know what politics is like to an outraged, neophyte, non-politican. It’s a little late to get started, but good luck to anyone willing to try.

  • jmc

    It’s probably easier to figure out some way to sever ourselves from Albany in the first place!

    The only hope to reform the system is to put someone new in a position of power, i.e. the governor. The only person I can think of with enough money and independence will be looking for something to do come 2010. The question is whether he’s enough of a masochist to want to do it.

  • We realize that it is about 6 months past the date when you really should have been starting to organize a campaign for the Sept. ’08 primary. That being said, it’ll probably take more than one election to knock off an incumbent anyway. How many tries did it take Hakeem Jeffries? Three, right? And he was running against a guy who was basically in the process of being indicted. The simple fact of a new name on the Democratic line would send a message in its own right.

  • vnm

    Term limits.

    Why are City Council members term limited but Assembly members not?

    Sheldon Silver has been in office since Abe Beam was mayor.

    Brodsky has been in office since the Koch administration.

    The opaque, shameful legislature in Albany is calcified, unable to adapt to changing needs and too frightened to stand up and vote when real issues need to be debated.

  • I (and I’m sure other S’blog readers) have considerable experience carrying nominating petitions and defending against and mounting ballot challenges. Propsective candidates should consider using SB as resource to recruit help with those efforts.

  • Ben – Thanks for this and your other post today.

    I am challenging Sheldon Silver in a Democratic Primary this year. I am his first opponent in 22 years.

    In addition to being a firm supporter of congestion pricing, BRT, sane parking prices and a host of other transit/pedestrian/cyclist friendly policies, I am a lifelong downtowner and cyclist myself. I am also prone to run-on sentences.

    @vnm (#8) – I firmly support term limits.

    @BicyclesOnly (#9) – We are putting our petition strategy together now. Please visit my website ( and shoot me an email. We can use your help. This goes for all readers, of course.

    Thank you.

    Please Help me beat Sheldon Silver

  • rhubarbpie

    While electoral races have a certain attraction — and the threat of a primary challenge is particularly distressing to even those with the safest seats — they are long shots at best, as I see you acknowledge above.

    The ideal combination is to have a primary challenge and some group working the incumbent to get him to be more responsive at the same time. I know the latter piece has begun to happen a bit in my district (O’Donnell); so far, there’s no primary challenge there. Whoever runs there will get crushed, but it might helpful.


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