Election Lawyers Dot I's
and Cross T's
By Daniel Wise
New York Law Journal (p. 1, col. 3)
November 28, 1995
LAST WEEK as the Presidential petitioning period in New York was
set to begin, Jeffrey Buley spent hours at the printers checking for
misspellings or other flaws in the 31 sets of petitions for the 93
delegates committed to Republican presidential candidate Robert
Dole. Over at Clinton campaign headquarters, Henry Berger, a partner
at Fisher, Fisher & Berger, pored over his candidate's delegate
lists to make sure there were enough women, blacks, Hispanics,
NativeAmericans, gays, disabled persons, youths and seniors.
Such is the fate of the top lawyers for Presidential campaigns
in New York as their candidates gear up for the start of a five-week
petition drive to qualify for the March 7 primary: they have the
glory of being in the thick of the fray to select their party's
candidates for U.S. President, but their life is one of details,
details and more details.
On both the Republican and Democratic sides, there are extremely
complicated rules to be followed. Despite a slight relaxation of the
requirements in the last few years, uncorrected technical errors can
be costly in terms of voided signatures.
On the Republican side, the rules are so onerous that only three
of the current eight candidates are attempting to qualify for the
ballot. In addition, unconnected to any of the three Republican
campaigns (columnist Patrick Buchanan and publisher Steve Forbes as
well as Mr. Dole, the majority leader of the U.S. Senate), a legal
challenge has been mounted to the petition requirements before
Eastern District Judge Edward R. Korman. Yesterday Judge Korman
eased the signature requirements necessary to qualify in the
Republican primary, opening the possibility that more Republican
candidates may now attempt to qualify for the New York primary (see
related article on this page.)
The Republicans will elect 93 delegates to their national
convention, three from each of the state's 31 congressional
districts. State law imposes the same requirements for the
Republican Presidential delegates as are applied for candidates for
To qualify for the ballot, convention delegates must obtain the
signatures of 5 percent of the enrolled voters in their
congressional districts, or 1,250 signatures, whichever is less. In
25 of the state's 31 congressional districts, the 1,250 figure
applies, and statewide a total of about 38,000 signatures are needed
to field a full slate of delegates.
The Democrats require far fewer signatures, but many more
substantive requirements govern the makeup of the delegate slate.
The Democrats have a two-step process, with 85 statewide delegates
going to the campaign of the candidate that wins the most votes
The remaining 159 delegates are divided among the state's 31
congressional districts, based upon a complex formula, set
nationwide according to factors such as population and votes in
prior presidential elections. The winners in the congressional
district races are selected proportionately, based on a percentage
of each Democratic candidate's vote within the district.
A Presidential campaign must get 5,000 signatures in the state
to qualify its candidate for the statewide vote. Delegate slates
must get the signatures of enrolled voters equal to .5 percent of
the Presidential primary vote in 1992 in their congressional
The Democratic party's national rules require that its statewide
delegation contain an equal number of men and women and set a
variety of goals for minority participation: 26 percent blacks, 12
percent Hispanics, 4 percent Asian-Americans, and .5 percent Native-
Americans. In addition, efforts are to be made to include the
``traditionally underrepresented,'' including gays, elderly, youths
and the economically disadvantaged.
Prepared to Fight
With a fight brewing on the Republican side, Mr. Buley, who is
of counsel to Cusick, Hacker & Murphy in Albany, said the Dole
campaign has assembled an army of about 100 volunteer lawyers.
Defensively, the lawyers will review the campaign's petitions for
technical defects. Offensively, he said, the lawyers will review the
petitions of the Buchanan and Forbes campaigns to determine ``if we
have a shot'' at knocking them off through a legal challenge.
With 100 lawyers, the Dole campaign has the firepower to bring
challenges in all six locations where administrative and judicial
challenges could be brought. The rule is that if a congressional
district is wholly within a single county or New York City, the
challenge is to be brought in that county or New York City (11
congressional districts are completely within city lines).
Challenges in districts spanning county lines must be brought in
John Klotz, who is handling the legal work for the Buchanan
campaign in New York, said his team would meet the challenge if it
arises, but declined to say how many lawyers he had lined up to
Thomas Spargo, who is directing the Forbes campaign's legal
effort, also said the problem would be manageable, because most
litigation would be confined to New York City or Albany. If the Dole
challenges materialize, he said, the Forbes campaign would hire the
lawyers needed to meet the challenge.
The following are thumbnail sketches of each campaign's top
Included graphic: Photos of Messrs. Buley, Klotz, Spargo and Berger.
Copyright 1995, The New York Law Publishing Company. All rights reserved.