June can mean that first day at the beach, the roar of a crowd at a baseball game, the swelter of an onslaught of humidity, or the joy of the last day of school. But for stalwart Democrats, June usually means one thing: petition season is here! But why do we petition to get our candidates on the ballot in New York State?

The political scene in 1880 was dominated by the legendary political machine of Tammany Hall and marked by some outrageous scandals, both of which called into question the fairness and validity of elections. Prompted by the scandals, New York instituted two major reforms.

The first was the use of the so-called “Australian ballot,” a uniform paper ballot provided at public expense with all the candidates listed and designed to avoid bias and any possibility that someone could figure out how a particular voter had cast his (and at the time, it was regrettably just “his”) ballot.

The second allowed two different ways for a candidate to be put on the ballot: be nominated by a political party, which had been the only option prior to this reform, or collect an adequate number of signatures of registered voters on a petition. This meant that a candidate without the backing of a machine could get onto the ballot by taking his or her case directly to the people.

That’s still the kernel of the system we have today. So remember that while you’re sweating in the sun at a street fair or mustering up the courage to engage your neighbor in a discussion about politics. You’re participating in a proud democratic (small “d”) tradition!

Statewide candidates for Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, and Comptroller were put onto the ballot at the New York State Democratic Convention, but the other candidates whom CFD has endorsed must earn their spot on the ballot the old-fashioned way – and you’re a big part of that process! So come help out with our petitioning this summer.