Queens Borough Candidate and City Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside, Woodside, Long Island City, Astoria, Dutch Kills) said he pledges to not challenge his fellow candidates’ petitions in the upcoming election and he’s calling on them to do the same.
On Monday, Van Bramer joined a lawsuit calling to cancel petitioning to get on the ballot in the upcoming elections because of the COVID-19 pandemic. But if the lawsuit is unsuccessful and candidates and their volunteers are forced to hit the streets to gather signatures, he’s pledging to not challenge his opponents’ petitions. Van Bramer is calling on all the other candidates to join him in his pledge with an emphasis on Queens Borough President Donovan Richards and the Queens County Democratic Party pledging as well.
“I also call on all of the people running for Queens Borough President, including and especially in this case the Borough President, to publicly state that his campaign and the Queens County Democratic organization will not challenge people’s petition signatures during the pandemic,” Van Bramer said.
Petition challenges are a practice that force candidates to gather four or five times the amount required signatures, he said, so candidates don’t risk being pushed off the ballot. The need for extra signatures increases the amount of in-person contact needed to gather signatures.
“Unless we know there aren’t going to be challenges, we know we have to go out there and force ourselves and our volunteers to collect four or five times that amount,” he said about the signatures.
Petitioning requires volunteers to stand around in locations where lots of people pass by on a regular basis, Van Bramer said, such as outside subway stops or supermarkets. All of the campaign volunteers will congregate there approaching people and chatting with them to get their signature.
“It’s a recipe for disaster. It’s just too many people forced to have too many direct close contact conversations. And it should not happen,” he said.
Of the other candidates, only Richards, who is running to keep his seat after winning last year’s special election, responded to requests for comment about the petition pledge. The Queens County Democratic Party did not respond either.
“Last year, at the onset of the pandemic, Borough President Richards made the difficult decision to call for the postponement of the March special election to protect the health of poll workers and voters. Should petitioning go forward, he won’t challenge the petitions of other candidates just as he didn’t last year.” wrote Thomas Musich, a spokesperson for Richards, in an emailed statement.
Last year petitioning took place at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. After an outcry from candidates and volunteers, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order reducing the number of signatures required to 30% and truncating the time period to do it in. That executive order then led to a law which was enacted last month, codifying those changes because of the pandemic.
This story originally appeared on QNS’ sister site QueensCountyPolitics.com.