Common Cause/NY Recommends Suspending In-Person Petitioning

Group pushes Gov Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio to replace in person petitioning w/ cover sheet and other requirements

NEW YORK, NY (02/05/2021) (readMedia)-- As the deadline for candidates to start petitioning to get on the ballot swiftly approaches, Common Cause/NY released recommendations that New York suspend all in-person petitioning. The group instead wants Cuomo and de Blasio to allow candidates to qualify for the ballot with a cover sheet and an open campaign committee by a certain deadline.

See full recommendations here and below:

"Governor Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio must revoke in person petitioning right now for 2021 candidates. No one should be putting their lives, or others, at risk by petition signature gathering in person. Instead, we're recommending that candidates submit a cover sheet and have opened a campaign account by the time petitioning begins to secure a spot on the ballot. The safety and health of New Yorkers should be our number one priority - not keeping potential challengers off the ballot," said Suasn Lerner, Executive Director of Common Cause/NY.


While the New York State Legislature and the Governor have taken a first step to address in-person petitioning, more is urgently needed as in-person petitioning is a potential superspreader event. That is why Common Cause New York is calling on the Governor to immediately suspend in-person petitioning as it endangers the welfare of all New Yorkers and defies the recommendations of the CDC and the Governor's own public health orders.

We urge the Governor to move quickly as the statewide petitioning process begins for candidates on March 2 in advance of the June primary as:

  • All decision making must start from a public health framework and therefore in-person petitioning violates CDC and New York State's own core public health strategy of social distancing and only interacting with a small group of household contacts.
  • Attempting to maintain in-person petitioning despite geographic-specific reductions is misguided, at best. Petition-circulators will still have to interact with persons outside their households, violating public health social distancing best practice guidance.
  • In New York City alone, there are 458 candidates who will need to start collecting in-person signatures in a matter of weeks. It is unconscionable to ask them to risk their lives and the lives of others by maintaining the in-person requirement.

Therefore, effective immediately, in-person petitioning must be suspended for the duration of the pandemic in order to follow public health guidelines and keep all New Yorkers safe. We acknowledge that COVID and a short time frame are working against any rapid changes to a longstanding piece of the political process, however it is imperative public health mandates and ease of implementation must drive decision making for petitioning in 2021.

After a quick and limited exploration of moving petitioning online, Common Cause New York determined that the development and deployment of a safe and secure online petitioning portal would be largely impractical in less than 30 days. We also looked at solutions used by other states and were unable to find one that would meet New York's needs with less than a month to execute. And, finally, while there are certainly private sector solutions for this issue, unless there is a single fiscal sponsor, like a government agency or political party, the costs would be prohibitive for many candidates despite the lowered signature threshold.

Therefore, due to the rapidly approaching petitioning start date, Common Cause New York urges the Governor and the Mayor of New York City to:

  • Suspend petitioning for the duration of 2021
    • The state must immediately suspend in-person petitioning requirements for the duration of 2021 and instead utilize the filing of the appropriate cover sheet with the relevant local Board with the added requirement of having candidates submit a Filer Registration, or filing a Candidate Certification with the New York City Campaign Finance Board if in New York City, by the first day of the petitioning period.
  • Explore electronic submission of petitioning signatures for the duration of the pandemic. The NYSBOE, in consultation with local boards, should develop protocols and a process for collecting and submitting petition signatures online for 2022 and beyond.