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Democratic primary in question after signatures deemed invalid

Democratic primary in question after signatures deemed invalid

Candidate indicates he will file lawsuit
Democratic primary in question after signatures deemed invalid
Damonni Farley meets with peer mediation students at Schenectady High School in November 2015.
Photographer: Daily Gazette file photo

SCHENECTADY — A court will likely decide whether there will be a Democratic primary in this year’s City Council race.

Damonni Farley, 36, submitted petitions to force a primary against three party-backed incumbent City Council members. That effort has fallen just short for the time being, after the Schenectady County Board of Elections ruled that just more than half of his submitted signatures were valid, and he failed to meet the necessary threshold to get on the ballot as a result.

Peggy King, a former City Council president and a Democrat, filed an objection on behalf of the Democratic Party on Friday with the county Board of Elections. Her challenge stated 534 of Farley’s 1,149 signatures are invalid.

Darlene Harris and Amy Hild, the bipartisan commissioners of the county Board of Elections, ruled Wednesday that about 480 of the signatures were, in fact, invalid. Farley only had 671 legitimate signatures as a result, less than the 752 required of prospective Democratic candidates. The deadline for filing petitions for a primary has passed.

Farley indicated he would file a lawsuit to protest the ruling. He has until Monday to do so.

“It’s my obligation to the people who signed this petition to take it to the court,” he said, adding that he feels confident a court would validate enough signatures to secure his place on the Democratic ticket.

Many of Farley's invalid signatures came from individuals who aren’t enrolled in the Democratic Party. Other invalid signatures resulted from signatories who aren’t registered at the address they printed on a petition or who don’t live in the city of Schenectady. All three criteria are required for candidates seeking a spot on the Democratic line in a City Council race.

The Board of Elections is only able to make a ruling on each objection based on its records, meaning if the given address on the petition does not match the board’s records, the corresponding signature is deemed invalid. It is up to an individual to notify the board of an address change.

Wednesday’s public hearing lasted several hours, with Harris and Hild going through each of the 534 objections individually. Farley was joined by about 10 supporters. The group expressed frustration at times with the process, and a couple people remarked that the proceedings were a good learning experience.

“It shines a lot on how marginalized communities remain marginalized, even in the democratic process,” Farley said.

The group remained at the Board of Elections’ office until about 7 p.m. Wednesday, going through signatures that could possibly be overturned upon a challenge.

Farley said he’s confident moving forward, and believes the challenge to remove him from the ballot will only serve to energize his supporters.

Richard Naylor, chairman of the City Democratic Committee, said the objections were not personal, but that there were enough signatures in question that it warranted a review. Farley interviewed for the party’s endorsement in the race, but was passed over because of a lack of experience, Naylor said.

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