Ruling expected soon on fate of Schenectady primary

Elections board had ruled Democrat lacked enough signatures
Damonni Farley at Schenectady High School in November 2015.
Damonni Farley at Schenectady High School in November 2015.

Categories: News, Schenectady County

A judge is expected to rule in the coming days whether there will be a Democratic primary in this year’s City Council race.

The Schenectady County Board of Elections last week ruled that about 480 of Damonni Farley’s submitted signatures were invalid. That left him with 671 signatures, less than the 752 required to earn a place on the Democratic Party line. Farley’s attorney, Daniel Smalls, filed paperwork Monday afternoon to protest the ruling.

The document, filed in state Supreme Court in Schenectady County, argues there are at least 106 previously dismissed signatures that meet the legal requirements to count toward Farley’s petition. If a judge agrees, that would give him 777 signatures, enough to force a primary with three incumbents.

“We have an obligation to the people who gave valid signatures to make sure their voices are heard and that their signatures count,” Farley said Wednesday, adding he’s confident a judge will support his claim.

Schenectady County Attorney Chris Gardner, whose office is representing the Board of Elections, said he believes the board’s position will be sustained. Even if some of the invalid signatures are overturned, Gardner doesn’t expect it to be enough to get Farley back on the ballot.

Former City Council President Peggy King filed an objection on behalf of the Democratic Party, stating 534 of Farley’s 1,148 submitted signatures were invalid.

At a hearing that lasted several hours, the bipartisan Board of Elections commissioners deemed many of Farley’s invalid signatures came from individuals who aren’t enrolled in the Democratic Party. A few signatures were thrown out because the signatory’s listed address fell outside the city of Schenectady.

The remainder of the invalid signatures came from individuals whose city address listed on the petition did not match their registered address with the Board of Elections. These are the focus of Farley’s challenge.

The board was only able to rule on each objection based on its most current records. It is up to an individual to notify the board of an address change.

Farley’s protest references a 1997 court ruling that said “an individual’s qualification to vote is unaffected by a change of address within the jurisdiction of the board of elections with which the voter is registered, regardless of whether the board of elections receives advance notice of the change.”

If Farley’s challenge is successful, the primary will be held Sept. 12. If the judge upholds the board’s ruling, there will be no primary, and party-backed incumbents John Mootooveren, Marion Porterfield and Karen Zalewski-Wildzunas will be the candidates on the Democratic line in November.

Either way, Farley will still be on the ballot, as he secured a place on the Working Families Party line for the November election. Farley is making his first run for public office. He works in the Schenectady City School District. He garnered the support of Mayor Gary McCarthy, who carried a petition for Farley.

“People who believe in me and my ideas are disappointed that a small group within the party is challenging valid signatures, and it’s just energizing people,” Farley said. “We’ve had people wanting to volunteer and know how they can get involved.”

Other candidates who have filed, or intend to file, petitions in the City Council race include GOP-endorsed Rima Cerrone and Mohamed Hafetz, and independent candidate Joshua Muno, a 24-year-old who has until later this month to submit his signatures.

Leave a Reply