July 20, 2008

Of Signatures and Sardines

Monique Chartier

Three commenters, Oz, Rhody and Anthony, expressed the view under Justin's post "Is Getting on the Ballot Half the Battle?" that the task of collecting signatures for a state or local candidate's nominating papers can be accomplished fairly quickly with some diligence and focus on the part of the candidate.

None of those commenters mentioned the sardine factor.

[Caveat: kids and candidates, don't try this at home.] See, if you're collecting signatures at a family cookout and some people are over at the barbeque grilling sardines, they can't simultaneously sign your papers. So it's necessary for someone else to sign all their names on your nomination papers. But this is okay as long as they call over from the grill, presumably with spatula in hand, and give that person permission to do so.

Actually, no, it's not. East Providence School Committee candidate Brian Monteiro learned this first hand last week. 131 of the 285 of the signatures he submitted on his nomination papers were disqualified, leaving him forty six signatures short. Third party signing for sardine-occupied family members disqualified half a dozen of those signatures.

While one wonders how such an unusually high number of unqualified signatures made it onto his nomination papers, this is after all Mr. Monteiro's first run. So his lack of familiarity with every requirement of this process is understandable.

Potentially less forgiveable, because unlike Mr. Monteiro, they will not be able to claim ignorance of election law, could be the actions tomorrow night of the East Providence Canvassing Authority. They will be meeting to hear challenges to the nomination papers of two candidates whose papers the Authority has already certified. I'd point out the party affiliation of two out of three Canvassing Authority members (Democrat) and the affiliation of the candidates to be challenged (not Democrat). But that might make me appear inordinately suspicious. Let's just leave it by quoting Justin. In the event nomination papers are disqualified tomorrow night,

[I'll be] curious which reason accounts for the most disqualifications, and if the former, I'd like to see some samples of illegibility.
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Sardines notwithstanding, I will go to the mat to support and defend those who act earnestly toward a lofty goal.

However, "I didn't know" is not a defensible situation.

Getting on the ballot is the most important thing when launching a campaign. This should be obvious to any candidate.

That being said, the canvassing boards in many cities and towns are stacked with democrat majorities, and they have no shame. I've seen it firsthand in my town, and it's enough to make your blood boil.

As I said in another comment, "illegibility" is a non-starter for me. A signature is a signature, no matter how messy (and even if it is signed with a grilled sardine in one hand.)

Posted by: oz at July 20, 2008 9:01 AM

I agree with oz, unfortunately too many candidates underestimate the difficulty of aquiring signatures and turn to less than appropriate measures to garner the amount needed to make the ballot. As for Anthony's response to a previous blog, that you can get all the signatures you need spending a couple of days at the Stop & Shop, shows a complete lack on his part. We are talking about local candidates running for City Council and School Committee not candidates running for the GA. Most local candidates don't have a supermarket in their ward.

Posted by: bobc at July 20, 2008 9:58 AM

As a first-time candidate for local office, I can say that gathering 50 signatures was not difficult at all. I didn't stand outside a supermarket, although there is one in my town, I simply spent a handful of hours knocking on perhaps 100 doors.

And as to knowing that the signatures had to be signed by the voters themselves, I think it says so right on the nomination papers. I crossed out the one signature I received from a husband who signed for his wife before I noticed he was doing so.

Posted by: Jon at July 20, 2008 10:26 AM

Such nonesense. There should be 10 signatures required for either House.

Posted by: Mike at July 20, 2008 10:36 AM

Three points.

1) a 200 signature requirement for the school committee? how is that possible considering you only need 50 for state rep. I wonder if this requirement would uphold a constitutional challenge since requiring 400% more signatures than most local races seems extremely burdensome on possible candidates.

2) Brian Monteiro and Will Pierce - both young Democrats - have gotten their signatures apparently bounced and will not appear on the ballot. Thus, this should show the "this is anti-Republican discrimination" crowd that ALL new candidates have problems navigating a bureaucratic and confusing system.

3) Brian is a great young person. I don't blame him for not understanding that "proxies" were not allowed for signatures or that you couldn't use dash marks to signify the same address. This kind of information is not clearly stated anywhere for a new person that is running for office.

Bottom line?

The process for running for office in Rhode Island is difficult because our state -both Dem and Repub - is dominated by incumbents who seek to make is difficult to engage the democratic process.

This, i think, is something that both RI Future and AR can agree on.

Posted by: Matt Jerzyk at July 20, 2008 11:20 AM

I'm looking at my nomination papers. On them, above the column for signatures, it states, "Voter Signature (Made in person, as on Voting List)". While this phrasing may be odd, I thought it was pretty clear that "voter signature" and "made in person" meant that the voters had to sign themselves. Also, every person gathering signatures is required to swear before a notary that "the signers of the within nomination paper did sign the same in my presence."

In practice it can be a pain (When one woman wanted to bring the paper in her house to have her husband sign, I had to ask that she have him come outside, or allow me to go inside, to watch him sign, and when she was unwilling to do either I did not obtain his signature), but I thought the requirement was clear.

Posted by: Jon at July 20, 2008 11:51 AM

a 200 signature requirement for the school committee? how is that possible considering you only need 50 for state rep.

Matt, not only do you have to get 200 signatures they cannot be duplicated! The first candidate to turn in their papers "owns" the signatures. So if you sign for opposing candidates, it's first come first served. I'm told that this is because it's a non-partisan election, but I'm not quite sure where this originates.

Posted by: bobc at July 20, 2008 11:56 AM

Brian Monteiro and Will Pierce - both young Democrats - have gotten their signatures apparently bounced and will not appear on the ballot. Thus, this should show the "this is anti-Republican discrimination" crowd that ALL new candidates have problems navigating a bureaucratic and confusing system.

Oh, By the way Matt, this does not show that all are created equal but merely represents the exception that proves the rule

Posted by: bobc at July 20, 2008 12:03 PM

I've looked into this in some detail: East Providence probably has the most onerous procedure to get a local candidate on the ballot of any city or town in Rhode Island. It is clearly meant to protect entrenched incumbents and to dissuade challengers from running. Apparently, it is written within our city charter (though not the original one from the 1950s), so it cannot simply be removed by an ordinance, but would have to get both council approval and voter approval.

For either School Committee or City Council, you need:

- 200 certified signatures
- The signatures have to be form within your home ward (we have 4 wards and 1 at-large seat for S.C. and C.C.), unless you're running for the at-large seat.
- The signatures cannot duplicate those collected by your opponent (so if the same person signs both candidates nomination papers, whoever turns in that signature first gets to use it towards the 200 total, and the other signature doesn't count for the opponent). Obviously, this greatly benefits the candidate with the best organization.
- This really means that you have to collect close to double what is technically necessary, in order to ensure that enough of your signatures will "count" -- even though they are completely valid signatures in every other respect. So, yeah 400 signatures for a school committee race is not unheard of, yet is completely ridiculous.
- Here's the kicker: you can only turn in all of your signatures ONCE. Unlike running for House or Senate, even if it's still before the deadline, once you've turned your signatures in, if it turns out that you didn't have enough certified signatures, you're not allowed to go back get more, and you'll be out of the race before it even starts.

There are almost certainly several legal recourses available regarding what I have described. However, that costs time and money which is probably better spent supporting quality candidates. Of course, once we get a city council majority, I'm sure modifying that to make it more democratic will be a top priority.

Posted by: Will at July 20, 2008 1:30 PM

bobc, I think you missed my point. There may not be a "Stop & Shop" in a district, but there are undoubtedly, stores, Little League fields, and other public places where people gather. I'm sorry that there may not be a Stop & Shop in your location, but the point stands.

If someone can't put in the time to collect a handful of signatures, I doubt they'll put in the time to serve the best interests of the people.

Then again, I suppose some just run for the health benefits.

Posted by: Anthony at July 20, 2008 4:11 PM

You are correct in that there are places to hang out and collect signatures. I choose to go door to door with a list of voters. If you're going to run, you might as well start with walking your nomination papers. As for running just to get free health care, we've had just that in East Providence. It's amazing how many people will just show up and sign your papers when you are resopnsible for giving out high paying, excellent benifits, jobs. You in turn get overwhelmingly re-elected and continue to receive health care. Wait, until the rest of the committee votes to take away the health care for all committee members. Then, all of a sudden the two who were taking the health care chose not to run again. Coincidence, I think not!

Posted by: bobc at July 20, 2008 7:47 PM

And if anybody read about W. Warwick rep candidate Paul Caianiello's problems collecting signatures in today's ProJo...you need three or four times the minimum if you're up against a Steve Alves who can intimidate members of the community (or have members of his posse giving you bad signatures).

Posted by: rhody at July 21, 2008 9:47 PM

The East Providence Canvassing Authority will hear the challenges filed against two candidates on July 29, one is a registered Democrat and the other is a registered Republican. This is public information and open and accessible to the general public.

Posted by: dm at July 23, 2008 8:24 AM

The East Providence Canvassing Authority will hear the challenges filed against two candidates on July 29, one is a registered Democrat and the other is a registered Republican. This is public information and open and accessible to the general public.
One is a registered Republican and the other is a Democrat, who is no longer welcomed by the EP City Democrat Committee. There is actually a third, a Democrat that had 43 challenges against his signatures that they(the Canvassing Board Democrats) tried to derail and will ultimately hear at that same July 29th meeting.

Posted by: bobc at July 23, 2008 1:26 PM

E Prov Canvassing Board meetings are alot like the Gong Show from the '70's.

It has improved since Peter Barilla has arrived. He seems to have common sense, and a sense of fair play. He has also made it clear that he plans to follow Title 17, which make Tom Riley the other honest canvassing board member happy.

I know E Prov isn't the only town with problems in their canvassing office, but it's a shame that our men and women are fighting for people to be able to have free and fair elections, and we, in this country, can't get it. We have to fight for ourselves.

Posted by: kathy at July 23, 2008 7:53 PM

Dear Mike,

Thanks for the positive feed back in your brief article date July 21, 2008. When I spoke to Steve Peoples from Projo, Steve was trying to get me to say on the record that Senator Stephen Alves was I quote, "legally and ethically abusing the power offered by his position."

The encounters with his sister and brother-in-law were actually cordial and polite at each of their residences. For your information, I obtained 152 signatures in all five (5) of the West Warwick Wards making up and setting the stage for the September 9th Democratic Primary...

To be more clear about my conversation with Political Scene reporter Steve Peoples, I told him in a ten minute converstion last month. "My concern was that the barber that cut my hair for thirty years and several other business owners and professionals that I spoke with took me outside businesses and said we can not sign because of our affiliation with Alves"

I ended up with 130 validated endorsements, but more importantly I would not let any endorsee sign before I spoke with them for at least ten to fifteen minutes. These signatures were obtained with a calculated plan to have volunteer and endorsee coverage throught West Warwick's District 9!

After I found where Alves' strong holds were, both in the business districts and residential neighborhoods, I was able in three short days to personally collect 122 signatures. When I went to Town Hall to obtain a copy of Stepen Alves' endorsee signature sheets, it showed that he personally never even collected one signature on his own accord. All Alves' signatures were collected by his uncle, cousins, and or his sister. It was brought to my attention that many of the signatures on Mr. Alves endorsement form for the Senate Race in District 9 were in sequential order by address, in which many of the addresses were housing for the elderly and subsidized housing for the physically and mentally impaired.

Paul P. Caianiello Jr.

Please Note: That my sign campaign will be strategic and I do not endorse negativity in any campaign of any sort. For this reason I have personally met with Jim Derry and asked him to fork over the last of his ink in pink, "Vote For Anyone But Alves". Although, Allen Palazzo was walking out with Anyone But Alves signs for placement in other wards around West Warwick, I felt it was wrong. I promised my endorsees that my campaign would not be negative and that not one dime of their contributions would be used in a negative way. The Pinga Campaign has a lot of money being thrown aroung with this senatorial campaign, when their campaign finance report is summited on or by 4:00 PM, August 12th, because I'm sure that Senator Alves will be planning by 4:01 PM to have a copy on his desk the next day!
Negativity, again and again can and usually will turn on you or your ideologies, please publish this article so Allen Palazzo and the Pinga Campaign can have a heads up.

As for the "Vote For Anyone But Alves" sign given to me, I told my campaign manager to donate it to Brown University's Political Science Program and he has agreed to do so. Although, I must say my campaign manager who I have known for five years could be so so right about our campaign's bottom line lose... I guess if Senator Alves no longer a Senator For The General Assembly Of Rhode Island some enriched soul from West Warwick may purchase the ink in pink Alves sign for hundreds more than it cost to make then, perhaps the can be put on EBAY for the quickest sale ever.

Alves will still instill his voter base to turn out on the September 9th Primary, but as those who have cut my hair for over 30 years, the Church secretary of where I went to Catholic Scool 40 years ago, a baker who recently did over a $1000.00 in business with me, the neighbor who said last month i did a great job working for Save The State to knock down the casino refferandum in 2006, the women up the street who collect for Easter Seal and The Cancer Foundat who son misteriously got a very very high paying position 2,000 miles away with Starwood Resorts and Casino, a third owner of Twin Rivers, I repeat what I was told, as with the conversation with Steve Peoples of Projo.com, e.g. Political Scene,"we have too many ties to the Alves Family and or i was done a big favor by Steve Alves personally and I not have my name or family name or you nomination paperwork for Senator Race against Stephen.

I wanted to rest and then forward you the real story. ph. 401-793-0178 or fx. 401-781-7109

Pleas overlook that my writer for articles was unavailable this weekend, when I put together this cooresspondence to you...

Posted by: Paul Caianiello Jr. at August 4, 2008 8:47 AM
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