More primary petition challenges this election year in Onondaga County


It’s been a busy summer for the Onondaga County Board of Elections. There were more challenges to the petition process than usual, and appeals of decisions will soon be underway. But September primary ballots are coming together.

Spring and early summer is the time political candidates go door to door asking for help getting on the ballot. Election law is very precise when it comes to who can sign petitions for particular candidates, and how election workers handle the documents.

This primary season more than ever, there have been issues with petitions leading to challenges and appeals. They have involved candidates for mayor, Onondaga County Legislature, the courts and Syracuse Common Council.    

“This is the heaviest objection season we’ve seen in the Board of Elections,” said Dustin Czarny, Onondaga County Democratic Elections Commissioner. “It’s going to be the heaviest court season as well. Usually we have one or two cases going to court. We’re going to have five.  We had 12 different hearings, where we usually have three or four.”

The race for an open mayoral seat is the most high profile case. Democrats need 1,000 valid signatures to get on the September primary ballot.

“While it is hard, it is not impossible to get 1,000 signatures,” said Czarny. “We’re talking about 200 volunteer hours to do something like that inside the city of Syracuse and get enough to not get your candidate challenged. And if you can’t put together 200 hours, it’s hard to imagine they could put together a successful campaign together for mayor of Syracuse.”

At this point there are three candidates definitely on the ballot for a Democratic mayoral primary in September. Common Councilor Joe Nicoletti, Juanita Perez Williams and Syracuse City Auditor Marty Masterpole, who survived a petition challenge. Two other Democratic candidates, Raymond Blackwell and Alfonso Davis, were removed from consideration after the Board of Elections invalidated hundreds of their petition signatures, Davis says he’s appealing the decision, while Blackwell says he will continue campaigning as a write-in candidate. 

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