The state Appellate Division has reversed decisions by a lower court and the Suffolk Board of Elections and restored Mike Yacubich to the Sept. 13 Republican primary ballot to challenge Assemb. Anthony Palumbo in the 2nd District.
The four-judge panel in Brooklyn, in a unanimous decision Friday, rejected claims that Yacubich’s petitions, filed under the name “Mike Yacubich,” would lead to “voter confusion” because his full name, Michael B. Yacubich, resembles that of his son, Michael V. Yacubich. Both are registered to vote at the same address.
The appeals court ruling came after Suffolk’s two election commissioners, a Democrat and a Republican, agreed unanimously to disqualify the petitions. State Supreme Court Justice John Leo upheld their ruling.
“The board exceeded its authority when it invalidated the designating petitions on the grounds it could not identify which registered voter was the candidate,” Justice Alan D. Schneinkman wrote in a two-page decision. “There was no proof that Yacubich intended to confuse voters or that any voters were confused as to his identify.”
The appellate ruling stated, “Candidates are permitted to run for office using a familiar name or nickname,” and “the Board [of Elections] lacked authority to rule on the objection based on its perception that the petition was confusing because of the candidate’s name.” That issue “involves a matter extrinsic to the designating petition itself and thus [is] a matter for judicial consideration, not the Board of Elections.”
The court made the decision after noting that Yacubich testified his 25-year-old son may be registered to vote at his Shoreham home address but he has not lived there since May 2016, and currently resides in California with his fiancee.
Yacubich also offered testimony from several witnesses who said they knew him as Mike and carried fliers with them while collecting petitions and “used them to identify the candidate to potential petition signers.”
Yacubich, 51, an accountant, a former school board member and chief of the Rocky Point Fire Department, said he was pleased by the appellate ruling, but said, “no one should have to go through this kind of process to get on the ballot.”
Yacubich added he has never stopped campaigning and hopes the court battle has helped get his name better known: “I still believe our prospects are good and we’re as motivated as before.”
Because the appellate ruling was unanimous, Palumbo must make a special application to the Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court, if he wants to seek a review of the case.
Palumbo said his attorney has made the request, but so far has received no answer, and he “expects to have a primary.”
Palumbo, 47 a former assistant district attorney now in private practice, said he was “a little surprised” by the ruling but expects to be successful in the primary. “We’re ready to go,” he said. “The important thing is to get the message out that there is a primary so voters know they have to come out to vote.”