March marked the beginning of petitioning season: Electoral candidates of various races scramble to collect signatures from enough constituents to qualify to get their names on a ballot in June. It’s the definition of grueling grassroots work for candidates and canvassers alike. 

Judicial delegate candidate Vladimir Edouard, 29, is a young Haitian man currently canvassing in Brooklyn (Kings County) for the 42nd Assembly District. He said that judicial delegate and alternate judicial delegate races rarely get the spotlight during petitioning season. He often will knock on someone’s door or stop a person for a signature and end up drawing them into a short civics lesson. 

The position he’s running for reports back to a district leader on viable candidates for New York State Supreme Court judge roles. 

At times the process can be scary, said Edouard, when he approaches someone’s door whom he doesn’t know. It can be grueling in crowded areas or when there’s inclement weather. Still, he believes it’s worth it. He dreams of eventually holding a seat as a member of Congress.  

“What’s definitely motivating me is getting everyone engaged in the political process—letting them know and learn what it is,” Edouard said. “Even in a miniscule position of politics, it can affect their lives. Even the smallest form of politics—greater change can come from that.”  

The number of signatures required for petitioners depends on that elected office they’re running for. As of yesterday, Edouard had 21 signatures; he needs at least 37. Running for a City Council seat requires at least 450 to 900 signatures. 

This year, all 51 City Council seats are up for grabs due to redistricting of voting lines, leaving first-year and incumbent council members pounding the pavement for supporting signatures. Most candidates, like Edouard, or campaign volunteers tend to aim well above what is necessary to get as many signatures as they can in the next month. 

The challengers to some of these seats are also out en masse to get their names on the ballot. The Amsterdam News reached out to Harlem’s District 9 candidates in Manhattan for a petitioning tagalong as they race against incumbent Councilmember Kristin Richardson Jordan. 

Assemblymember Al Taylor said in a statement there is a “deep sense of skepticism and wariness about politics” in disadvantaged communities, but that he is seeing hundreds of people come forward each day to sign his petitions because they are engaged with his vision of Harlem.

“The campaign is out and about in the 9th Council District,” said the campaign office of Assemblymember Inez Dickens in a statement. “We have volunteers and ardent supporters hitting the pavement and collecting signatures to get Inez on the ballot. We look forward to seeing Inez’s name on the ballot in June so that she can finally put her plan in action to make Harlem a place where people can live, thrive, and visit.”

On Monday, activist Yusef Salaam of the Exonerated Five invited the Amsterdam News and student reporters from Columbia University to follow him as he walked the district. He’s supported by the Frederick E. Samuel Community Democratic Club (W. 135th Street) that was established by former City Councilmember Fred Samuel, a three-term councilmember for Harlem who died in the 1980s.

City council candidate Yusef Salaam for Harlem District 9 gathering signatures along W 135th Street. Credit: Ariama C. Long

Despite the biting cold, Salaam and his team stopped to converse with residents outside delis and on street corners. Black men and women who have lived in the district for decades and vividly remember the “Central Park Five” case spoke to him about much-needed reforms to the criminal justice system, but housing and affordability seemed to be the main concern. 

“This is literally sparking a movement to resuscitate and push life back into our community, so this can’t be politics as usual because politics has been seen as something very dirty,” said Salaam. “The truth of the matter is that…we deserve better. We need better, we’ve been wanting better. But the problem is that we’ve been getting the same thing consistently over the course of time.”

The Independent Neighborhood Democrats (IND), a political club in Brooklyn, are supporting multiple City Council candidates, including Councilmembers Crystal Hudson in District 35 and Shahana Hanif in District 39. It’s only a few days in, but IND President Ilyssa Meyer has a whole squadron of volunteers standing under scaffolding and inside subway stations to churn out filled petitions. Some IND members have been around since the ’70s and have lived in their districts for more than 30 years. They tend to bring in a lot of signatures when canvassing, said Meyer. 

That doesn’t discount the younger canvassers, who find innovative ways to connect with constituents all the time. Meyer said they are in the process of collaborating with the Brooklyn Young Dems to host happy hour events to get younger voters more involved. 

IND is also petitioning for lesser-known county wide races, with multiple judicial candidates for Municipal Court, Civil Court judgeships, and Surrogate’s Court judge. Their endorsements include women of color who are running for Civil Court judge: Betsy-Jean Jacques, Linda Wilson, Monique Holaman, and Marva Brown.

Meyer strives to be friendly and have a positive disposition, no matter how long getting signatures takes. “I was standing out on the avenue for Crystal Hudson this weekend and within an hour, I got 30 signatures, which means I probably asked (about) 130 people to sign,” she said. 

Meyer said volunteers are trained to keep a sharp eye out for duplicate signatures and check for registered voters in the proper party and district. At the end of the month, they aim to turn over all their petitions to a lawyer for a pre-review before turning them in for official certification by the deadline of May 1.

Ariama C. Long is a Report for America corps member and writes about politics for the Amsterdam News. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep her writing stories like this one; please consider making a tax-deductible gift of any amount today by visiting

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