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Editorial: Death by election law loophole

Editorial: Death by election law loophole

Change law so candidacies can't be derailed over petty petition errors

Never mind the fact that Libertarian Party candidate Eric Sundwell’s presence on the 20th Congressional District ballot was unlikely to affect the outcome of the race between major-party contenders Jim Tedisco and Scott Murphy. That isn’t the point. Rather, it’s that technical loopholes in New York’s arcane elections shouldn’t be used to keep otherwise legitimate candidates off the ballot — as they certainly were in this case.

More than half of the signatures collected on Sundwell’s nominating petitions were declared invalid by the state Board of Elections Wednesday. Were they fraudulent, as might be implied by so drastic a measure? No, in many cases the “flaw” was minute — a petitioner using a mailing address instead of his or her actual place of residence, or naming a hamlet or village instead of a town. Such quirks, when they involve the signature and address of the petition’s witness, can invalidate a whole page’s worth of signatures (as they did with some of Sundwell’s petitions)!

Most major-party functionaries have had plenty of experience with these mistakes, and know enough to alert their petition carriers not to make them; they also know they can usually count on one to get some opponents’ signatures knocked off. But in this case, they hit the jackpot: When the dust settled, Sundwell — who thought he had 286 more names than he needed — ended up more than 550 short.

Rules are rules, so the state Board of Elections voted unanimously to throw Sundwell off the ballot. But Commissioner Evelyn Aquila did voice objections with the law’s picayune nature, suggesting it was time for a change. We hope the state Legislature was listening.

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