A state Supreme Court Justice in Nassau will decide by the end of next week whether three Long Beach Democrats will appear on a Sept. 12 primary ballot to run for City Council.
Justice James P. McCormack said he expects to issue a written ruling by Aug. 18, after hearing testimony Friday from the three candidates and nine witnesses who were questioned about irregularities regarding their signatures.
Long Beach Independent Democratic Party leader Darlene Tangney and City Council members Scott Mandel and Chumi Diamond have filed a lawsuit challenging the petitions of potential primary candidates Barbara Bernardino, Joe Miccio and Runnie Myles, which carried a total of more than 1,200 signatures.
Attorneys for the Independent Democrats are contending that 445 signatures were forged. The Nassau Board of Elections has already invalidated 407 other signatures on those petitions.
McCormack said that the petitions warranted a closer look.
“While the signatures are not forgeries, per se, there are incidents being asked . . . [about] by other people and the candidates themselves,” he said, adding such “activities . . . need to be scrutinized further.”
In court Friday, four Long Beach voters whose names were on the petitions of primary challengers testified that they either did not sign the petitions or someone from their family may have signed for them, which is not valid.
Other voters with signatures on the petitions testified Friday that they were not registered Democrats or didn’t recognize a second signature of their name. In some cases, they said they did not see candidates who said they witnessed the signing.
All of the signatures of nine voters who testified Friday were ruled invalid by the Nassau County Board of Elections.
Nassau Board of Election officials said Friday that while past elections have required 500 signatures on petitions to make the ballot for city council, the number was changed this year to be 641. The primary candidates said they were previously unaware of the change.
The three challengers — who ran as a slate but collected signatures individually — said they got the signatures from Long Beach residents, who were registered Democrats and said they had not signed any other petitions.
The lawsuit contends that the challengers did not file enough valid signatures to qualify for the ballot and that some of the signatures may have been forged or fraudulent. Other challenges to the petitions are based on technical errors, such as wrong filing dates or incorrect addresses of Long Beach voters.
Miccio testified Friday that he collected signatures himself from neighbors and on the beach and the boardwalk. Of the 200 signatures he collected on the beach and boardwalk, 114 were deemed invalid by the Nassau elections board because voters may not have been registered as Long Beach Democrats.
He said he wasn’t surprised that some of his signatures would be invalid, but said he asked each person if they were registered Democrats living in Long Beach.
“When I asked if they were registered Democrats they said yes, but some may not have been sure if it changed when they moved here,” Miccio said. “So I said, ‘OK. Sign it.”
Runnie Myles said he crossed off names of invalid voters. He said he witnessed signatures, even though some voters said in court they didn’t see him present.
“They didn’t see me, but I definitely saw them,” Myles said.