While the rest of the world might think New York’s petition process is an arcane system designed to protect professional politicians, passing petitions with several candidates’ names on them isn’t anything new, according to Niagara Falls Democratic Chairman Michael Rimmen.

Even though both major parties used petitions with multiple candidates on them, in Niagara Falls, the Democrats came under fire from “political people” — Rimmen insists it was no one else — for passing petitions with more than one name on them.

There wasn’t as much contentiousness on the Republican side because Republicans won’t be holding a citywide primary, unlike the Democratic side, where many more candidates are running.

Having people sign for more than one candidate on a single petition is a practice that’s been used for years to nominate delegates for judicial nominating conventions, Rimmen said.

When I asked when the last time there was a heated competition for judicial delegates, Rimmen assured me they’re contentious contests.

Rimmen’s candidates, Lewis “Babe” Rotella for mayor, whose name appeared on a single petition sheet, and Robert Anderson and Nicholas Ligammari for City Council and Robert Merino for City Court judge, whose names appeared together on another sheet, didn’t get away with collecting less than the required signatures, the chairman said.

All citywide Democratic candidates had to collect 791 signatures. But each candidate’s name on a petition gets to count each person who signed a petition. That 791 goal shrinks to nearly 200 when you divide it by four candidates.

Rimmen said with the help of an active 50-member city committee, the four candidates on the same ballot gathered over 2,462 signatures, or 615 per candidate.

One of the reasons the committee put multiple names on the same petition is to make it “easier” on the people signing the petitions, Rimmen said.

What’s more, with almost 16,000 registered Democrats in the city, there’s no reason every candidate can’t collect valid signatures, he said.

“You’ve got to do the job,” he said.

He calls the stumbling of some candidates — who were thrown off the ballot after the Board of Elections considered challenges he had filed — “total disregard for the rules”.

“It’s actually a simple process,” he said. “Get the signatures and fill the darn thing in right.”

The question of whether New York’s petition process should be overhauled to make getting on the ballot easier for working people, younger people or people who can’t afford an attorney to help them decipher election law is certainly worth entertaining.

What is clear is that this year, the race for mayor started the day those petitions hit the street and got competitive the minute the petitions were turned in at the board.

Several court hearings, a trip to the Appellate Court and the reduction of the mayoral field from six candidates to three proves that.

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Mayor Vince Anello, who lost his last chance this week to appear on the September ballot because of problems with his own petitions, is concerned that he’s not hearing a plan for the courthouse project from the remaining mayoral candidates.

“That particular project is going to be on the backs of the taxpayers for another 40 years,” he said.

It’s not just the courthouse that troubles him.

“I haven’t really heard any candidate discuss any issue,” he said.

Anello is ready to tell whoever wants to listen who he’ll be supporting in the fall, he just doesn’t want to say it in public.

“I’m not holding my supporters to anything other than do the right thing for the city of Niagara Falls,” Anello said. “I’ve had no discussions with anybody.”

He didn’t commit to making a public endorsement before the primary.

Contact reporter Jill Terreri

at 282-2311, ext. 2250.

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