NISKAYUNA — The “Pro Nisky” Party line that sparked controversy in Niskayuna last month will not appear on November’s general election ballot.
The Schenectady County Board of Elections has ruled that 130 signatures collected on an independent nominating petition are invalid, leaving the party short of the number of signatures it need.
The “Pro Nisky” Party needed 538 valid signatures for inclusion on the ballot. With the subtraction, the party is 85 signatures short with 453.
On May 18, visitors from Buffalo canvassed the Old Niskayuna neighborhood with members of the town’s Republican Committee. The team asked residents to sign an independent nominating petition that would benefit the four Republican candidates running for town government seats this fall.
Those candidates are incumbent Supervisor Yasmine Syed, Town Board candidates Anthony M. Simone and Jerome D. Chao and Town Clerk candidate Diane P. O’Donnell.
Democrats criticized the operation, saying the town didn’t need out-of-town visitors “trying to bamboozle residents into signing on to a fake political party.”
According to the Board of Elections, 583 signatures were submitted. Signatures were reviewed after Ginger Lachapelle filed an objection to the petition. A hearing was held earlier this month.
Democratic Commissioner Amy Hild said some signatures were thrown out because the person signing was not registered to vote.
“There was also a good amount of individuals who signed the petition who had signed other petitions for the same office,” said Republican Commissioner Darlene Harris. “You can only sign one petition a season for those offices.”
The commissioners said the 538 requirement was set from Niskayuna voting numbers recorded in the last gubernatorial race in New York. The Board of Elections uses 5 percent of the total number of votes cast for petition signature numbers; 5 percent of Niskayuna votes in 2018 equaled 538.
Syed acknowledged the “Pro Nisky” line would not be included on the November ballot.
“It doesn’t surprise me the Niskayuna Democratic Committee, with their own operatives, would do everything they could to make sure the Pro Nisky line would not be on the ballot this fall,” she said.
“We were expecting the objection,” Syed also said. “That’s something we always knew they were going to do and they did.”
If successful, the ballot line would have benefited political newcomer Chao, who is on the ballot running as a Republican. A “Pro Nisky” line would have given him a second line on the ballot. The other Republican candidates have more than one line on the ballot.
“It’s unfortunate that we didn’t meet the threshold to have that ballot line, and it was to serve our candidate who had only one ballot line,” Syed said. “It’s unfortunate for him.”
Syed also said the signature collectors were given lists of registered voters during their visits to town homes on May 18 and 19. She said people answering the door might have thought themselves registered although they were not.
“You trust that person would know whether or not they were,” Syed said. “That’s an issue we come across when we’re getting petition signatures.”
Democratic Councilman John Della Ratta said he was not surprised election commissioners found what he described as an “overwhelming” number of invalid signatures collected by the GOP petition team.
“Niskayuna residents were smart enough to see through this scheme and that is why they failed,” he said.
Contact Gazette reporter Jeff Wilkin at 518-395-3124 or at [email protected]
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