The arcane hurdles that exists for upstart candidates to get on the ballot are many and high. The most damaging is the petitioning process, whereby lawyers for the county party challenge the signatures collected by outsider candidates, hoping to get enough signatures disqualified to get them removed from the ballot.
Two City Council candidates from Queens who were bounced from the Democratic Primary this year tried to call attention to the issue, but in the end they were still left off the ballot.
But at least the rules are spelled out. They might not like it, but candidates know the game they are playing when they go in.
A more serious issue is the so-called “Committee on Vacancies,” which was originally created to fill elected posts that are left vacant to due to illness, death, or other reasons (in New York State “other” often means going to jail).
But the committees are often abused, a way for candidates who no longer feel the desire to serve to handpick their successor. It's gone on for years, but the fact it happened twice in Brooklyn recently has brought more criticism down on the practice.
Both Councilman David Greenfield and State Senator Daniel Squadron made surprise announcements that they would be stepping down. However, the timing of their announcements made it impossible for candidates to get on the ballot, so a Committee on Vacancies will pick their replacements.
The problem is the committees are stacked with political appointees, whose loyalty lies with the party and not the voters.
State Senator Tony Avella announced two pieces of legislation this week that would limit the committees to filling vacancies created by extraordinary circumstances, not resignations, and also require special nonpartisan elections when vacancies do occur.
It's time to end this practice, one of the worst abuses by party machines on our democracy, taking the power away from voters and giving it to a small group of people.