Assemblywoman Rhoda Jacobs ThisClose to Being Knocked Off the Ballot
This is a case to watch. Rhoda Jacobs is seriously close to losing her ballot status for the September 13 primary. Jacobs, who has represented the 42AD for 32 years, and her entire slate are at risk. Jacobs’ slate includes Mary Hobson – seeking to make a comeback as Female District Leader after being knocked off the ballot two years ago by political firebrand Rodneyse Bichotte – and Jacobs’ entire slate of Delegates to the Judicial Convention and County Committee candidates.
How could Jacobs find herself in this precarious position? Bichotte challenged Jacobs’ petitions, paying particular attention to Jacobs’ County Committee candidates. During the court challenge, 7 County Committee candidates testified that they did not give permission to be listed on Jacobs’ petitions. (One Judicial Delegate also did not give permission.) The Supreme Court allowed Jacobs’ petitions to stand by reasoning that there was no intent to defraud voters.
Bichotte appealed. Her attorney, Aaron D. Maslow, believes the lower court erred because “If two or more individuals did not give permission to have their name placed on the ballot, precedent dictates that the entire petition is invalid.”
Both parties made oral arguments before the Appellate Division Tuesday morning.
The four member panel grilled Maslow on the effect of invalidating a number of down-petition candidates on candidates at the top of the petition. Again and again, Maslow pointed to Appellate precedent where in at least two cases petitions were invalidated due to two down-petition candidates not giving permission to be listed on a petition.
The panel equally pressed the defense. One judge stated, “Nothing says that 32-year incumbents are exempt from the rules.” Defense counsel argued that allowing the lower court ruling to stand would validate “the will of the voters” who may not have signed the petitions for County Committee candidates but for Jacobs. In a seeming sign of desperation, defense argued the policy implications of overturning the lower court and reminded the panel that invalidating the entirety of Jacobs’ petitions would impact the upcoming primary and general election.
The Appellate Court will likely make a decision this week, as the Court of Appeals will hear election cases next week.
The Appellate Second Division panel knows it has a difficult decision, evidenced by the full and complete hearing it gave to both sides.
If the Appellate Court decides to ignore its own precedent and allow partially invalidated petitions to stand, that decision will impact others who will ask for exemptions from fault on invalidations on future petitions. If the Appellate Court rules that Jacobs’ entire set of petitions are invalidated, it will be an abrupt end to a sitting Assembly member. But, it will also be a sobering warning to future candidates for elected office that the top of the slate can be fatally harmed by invalidations down-petition.
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