State Legislature passes election reform bill

Brooklyn Assemblywoman Rodneyse Bichotte Hermelyn.
Corazon Aguirre

Brooklyn Democratic Assemblywoman Rodneyse Bichotte-Hermelyn says that both houses of the state Legislature on Tuesday passed an election reform bill that she introduced that will reduce the number of signatures for designating petitions by 70 percent for the upcoming election cycle.

“This will allow candidates to organize their campaigns, print their petitions and collect voters’ signatures while respecting public health guidelines,” said Bichotte-Hermelyn, the daughter of Haitian immigrants, who chairs the Brooklyn Democratic Party.

She said the bill also shortens the period to circulate petitions by two weeks, one week at the beginning and one week at the end (from March 2 to March 27), and changes the dates for filing the petitions to coincide with the last week of the petition period.

“The past year has been filled with tragedy, especially for our most vulnerable and low-income communities,” said Bichotte-Hermelyn. “We must protect New Yorkers from the virus.

“Democracy is this nation’s core foundation, and free and fair elections and robust campaigning define us,” she added. “We are heading into the second year of this deadly pandemic.

“Last year, under an executive order which is about to expire, the governor lowered the petitioning threshold to 30 percent,” the assemblywoman continued. “This upheld the integrity of the petitioning process, while still maintained a safe way to have candidates who so desire, get on the ballot. We must do the same again in this year.”

Bichotte-Hermelyn said another reason for reducing petitioning is “due to the delayed vaccine distribution, which is a result of a shortage of supply received from the federal government, under the prior administration.

“Due to the delay in the vaccine, we do not expect to reach herd immunity until the summer, at best, which will be after the primary,” she said. “This puts us in a precarious situation. We are also in the second wave of the virus, and with a new strain of coronavirus, the future is unpredictable.

“We must protect each other,” she urged. “We must follow sound medical advice.

“Democracy is so fragile and as we have seen lately, so sacred, that we must do everything in our power to keep it strong and vibrant while also maintaining health precautions,” Bichotte-Hermelyn continued. “I believe we can be both protective of our democracy and maintain proper health precautions.

“It is our hope that this pandemic will end soon,” she said. “The bill is expected to be presented to the governor to be signed into law.”

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