NYC's Troublesome Committee on Cover Sheet Review

I remember once having a high school English teacher who cautioned our class that college professors wouldn't give an A to any paper that ...
by | July 28, 2009

I remember once having a high school English teacher who cautioned our class that college professors wouldn't give an A to any paper that had even a single error in comma usage. This warning was, I suppose, intended to encourage us to focus more on grammatical precision, but my reaction (which I kept to myself) was, "If that's actually true, college professors must be insufferably petty people."

As it turned out, that wasn't true. But, my English teacher would have been on stronger ground if he had been talking about the people who write and enforce New York City's election laws.

From a New York Times editorial:

New York City's election laws are notoriously unfair, and few events make that point as well as what happened on Thursday to City Councilman Bill de Blasio. Mr. de Blasio, a Democrat from Brooklyn, has been running for the job of public advocate for New York City. He has raised more than $1 million and courted thousands of voters. To get on the ballot, he needed 7,500 valid signatures of city voters. To be sure he got enough, his campaign gathered 125,000.

But Thursday afternoon, Mr. de Blasio's name was removed from the Democratic Party line on the ballot by the New York City Board of Elections. The reason? A cover page on his packet of signatures said that there were 131 folders when there were actually 132.

(Hat tip: Rick Hasen)

Moreover, consider this report from

Council Member Alan Gerson (D-Manhattan) has been kicked of the ballot for a technical error involving the misprinting of one of his petitions, the New York City Board of Elections has confirmed.

The Board of Elections will hold a hearing at 1:30 p.m. today to decide whether he will be reinstated.

The printer that published Gerson's petitions apparently committed an error that incorrectly listed Gerson's address as 1505 LaGuardia Place, rather than his actual address, 505 LaGuardia Place, in a petition book that contained approximately 1,000 of his signatures. Gerson attempted to cure the error this weekend, but tried to do so without the assistance of an attorney. He tried to cross the extra "1" in the address off the petitions, but the board was not satisfied, according to Gerson campaign consultant George Arzt.

For anyone who thinks technicalities shouldn't deprive voters of choices, the good news is that de Blasio is back on the ballot and Gerson may back soon. Of course, they've already wasted time and money trying to fix the problems. Elizabeth Benjamin offers this report:

Board spokeswoman Valerie Vazquez said the committee on cover sheet review (the two-commissioner body that gave de Blasio so much trouble in the first place) will meet after the hearing to discuss Gerson's case.

They might do well to discuss whether the existence of a committee on cover sheet review actually serves the interest of voters.

Josh Goodman
Josh Goodman  |  Former Staff Writer

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