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Lawsuit challenges for placement on the ballot in all-but-uncontested borough president race denied

Former City Councilman John Gangemi campaigns for mayor at the Brooklyn Memorial Parade in Bay Ridge earlier this year.

Brooklyn Daily Eagle

Former New York State Senator Eric Adams ran unopposed in the September 2013 Democratic primary for Brooklyn borough president. This is partly because a potential candidate was left off of the ballot.

John Gangemi, a lifelong Brookynite and attorney, filed a petition in early July with the New York State Board of Elections (BOE) purporting to designate him as a Democratic Party candidate for Brooklyn Borough President. Deeming the initial petition insufficient, Gangemi, on his own volition and without prompting by the BOE, filed an amended petition cover sheet.

The BOE looked over Gangemi’s amended petition and advised him that the amended cover sheet did not comply with BOE rules and regulations. In particular, although not mentioned to Gangemi at the time, the amended coversheet did not contain the requisite Rule C4.

Rule C4 of the BOE’s Designating Petition Rules for the September 2013 Primary Election provided in pertinent part that, "An amended cover sheet … must contain the following authentication: 'this is to certify that I am authorized to file this amended cover sheet." Having failed to provide the required authentication, the BOE advised Gangemi that his designating petition was defective and that if the defect was not cured within three days it would be deemed “a fatal defect.”

The notice of defect did not specify the exact error(s) in Gangemi’s petition. Gangemi, a former City Councilman and current resident of Bay Ridge, subsequently filed a series of amended petitions, each of which contained an error in one form or another.

On July 19, the BOE “determined that [Gangemi] will not appear on the ballot for the September 10, 2013 Primary Election since the Amended Cover sheet filed did not comply with the New York State Election Law and/or the Rules of the Board of Elections." This notice of denial did specify the errors of each of Gangemi’s petitions.

Shortly before the July 19 BOE letter was sent out, the purported Democratic Party nominee for Brooklyn borough president, Adams, filed a suit in Brooklyn Supreme Court challenging a number of signatures on Gangemi’s designating petition. Adams also filed an objection with BOE challenging the signatures; the BOE later determined that Gangemi was short 191 of the 2,000 required signatures for ballot placement.

Gangemi argued, in turn, that argued that when the BOE looked again at his amended petition to determine whether or not it contained a sufficient number of signatures, the BOE was signaling that its initial determination that his designating petition was invalid no longer stood.  

In other words, while the July 19 notice of denial specifically noted that was “the official determination on behalf of the [Board]," the reopening of his petition — even if it was done to determine its invalidity once again — voided the July 19 notice of denial.

“The court also finds no merit to petitioner's argument,” wrote Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice David Schmidt, presiding justice of the case.

Gangemi stipulated that his designating petition contained some errors, but said that the errors were minor and therefore not sufficient to deny his petition.  

“[It] is well settled that the Board may not reject a designating petition based upon a minor cover sheet error when the cover sheet is otherwise in substantial compliance with the Election Law,” Schmidt wrote in his ruling. However, Gangemi’s petition surpassed a minor cover sheet error and instead contained defects that “present[ed] a risk of fraud or confusion,” the jduge wrote.

In particular, Schmidt noted that Gangemi failed to “identify the handful of petition sheets upon which his name appeared.” This failure “would likely prevent the objectors from reviewing and challenging the signatures on these sheets,” Schmidt held.

Given the numerous errors contained in Gangemi’s petition, Schmidt ruled in favor of Adams and found Gangemi’s petition duly invalid.

September 16, 2013 - 1:30pm


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