Failure to Administer Oath to Two Signatories Invalidated Petition—When Oath Required Under the Election Law Explained
The Third Department determined that the failure to administer the oath required by the Election Law to two signatories invalidated the designating petition. The court explained when the oath is required under the Election Law, and when it is sufficient to merely witness a signature:
The Election Law provides a much simpler process for a local party member to obtain petition support for a potential candidate than for an individual of either another political party or from outside the relevant political subdivision. A local party member may obtain petition signatures and affirm with a simple statement that the signatories “subscribed the same in my presence on the dates above indicated and identified himself or herself to be the individual who signed this sheet” (Election Law § 6-132 ). Where the petition is obtained by an individual other than a statutorily authorized local party member, however, the petition may be approved by a notary public or commissioner of deeds, but it is further required that each individual signatory be “duly sworn” (Election Law § 6-132 ).
Here, [respondent] was gathering signatures on multiple party lines, and at issue are three lines in which she was not a duly registered party member. At the hearing, in addition to testimony from signatories that no oath or affirmation as to the truth of their statements was elicited prior to signing the petitions, [respondent] herself clearly acknowledged in her testimony that she had neither administered an oath to any signatory on the challenged petitions, nor had she asked any of them to swear or affirm to tell the truth before signing. This is contrary to her attestation as a commissioner of deeds, which appears on the face of each sheet of the challenged designating petitions, as required pursuant to Election Law § 6-132 (3). As respondent argues, case law has established that not all of the formalities of an oath need be observed … . Nonetheless, we are constrained to find that the evidence did not support a finding of substantial compliance with the statutory requirements. Accordingly, the signatures collected by [respondent] are rendered invalid… . Matter of Mertz v Bradshaw, 2015 NY Slip Op 06639, 3rd Dept 8-20-15