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  • Writer's pictureBen Yee

Why I'm Petitioning and Need Your Help

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Last Tuesday was the first day of petitioning!

What is that and why does it matter? Let's explore, in a post that could also be titled: "What The Deuce Is Petitioning?"

What is that?

Generally, petitioning is gathering signatures. You might have encountered those people on the street who want you sign to stop something - that's petitioning. It's a time honored tradition for showing government that some issue or individual has the support of the citizenry.

And that's exactly what it is in campaigns. Before a candidate can appear in an election for governmental (or Party) office, that individual must prove that they have the support of the voters in their district. How much?

-- In a Primary: 5% of Registered Party Members (e.g. Democrats)*

-- In a General: 5% of Registered Voters

*Note: In the Primary, only Party Members are allowed to sign petitions. In elections, any registered voter can sign.

In my District - which is an entire Assembly District, that comes to 500 signatures from the whole area. For County Committee Members, who represent Election Districts (about three blocks in Manhattan) to the Democratic Party, I've seen as high as 80 or as low as 4; depending on how many registered Democrats are in that district.

Why does it matter?

Petitioning matters a lot! It determines who will get on the ballot and how many options voters will have in an election.

Petitioning is long, grueling work; going from person to person, house to house, trying to find eligible Party Members or Voters who will sign. Every politician who runs is driven to collect enough signatures from people whose Party and Voter registration can be verified. This empowers Political Party Committees (State Committee, anyone?!) who can nominate Party candidates - removing their need to petition.

The petitioning process results in three notable side-effects:

-- The petitioning process empowers groups who help organize petitioners. Much of the influence of Democratic Clubs comes from their endorsements - which means they'll help you petition. (I'm honored and grateful to have been endorsed by all three clubs in my district).

-- Before the campaigning begins, candidates will often wage legal battles to find fault in their opponents signatures and have them "kicked off the ballot."

Believe it or not, it's still valuable.

Well, that all sounds archaic and annoying. So why do we still have petitioning?

-- Petitioning is one of the few fail-safes our democracy utilizes to prevent fringe-candidates with minimal support from entering a race and winning with external support.

-- Petitioning requires politicians to have contact with the community they hope to represent. During petitioning, many voters will have face-to-face contact with a candidate.

This is why Saturday June, 11 I'm going petitioning.

You can make up your own mind as to whether it all balances out. But, for the time being, voters who ignore petitioners are only hurting the options they have for candidates in the election later on. And candidates, like me, who don't petition, don't deserve to get elected.

Please join me, Downtown Independent Democrats and Village Independent Democrats for breakfast and petitioning:

Saturday, June 11

10am - 2pm

26 Perry St

You can show up, but it's nice to know you're coming. Let us know at

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