Just as the latest winter storm hit Western New York, campaign activists hit the streets looking for signatures for the new spring election.
As part of major changes in the state's Election Law, political party primary elections have been moved up from just after Labor Day to June. That means the collection of the signatures needed for candidates to go on the ballot were moved up - to Tuesday, with the petitions due April 4.
"The last few years we've been going out for our congressional petitions every two years because the primary was in June and we have petitioned in the past in the snow for the presidential delegates," said Erie County's Democratic Elections Commissioner Jeremy Zellner, "but this is all new territory for us, running for town office and running for local office to start this early in the season."
How many signatures are needed? That is yet to be determined. Apparently legislators and the governor wanted to cut the number of valid signatures needed to get on the ballot, but didn't do it right, so it is being changed.
Zellner is telling candidates to get the old number.
"What I would suggest to them is that they get the 5 percent signatures, either way," Zellner said. "Right now, we believe that the bill is going to require less than 5 percent, that it'll be reduced a quarter. So those people who have to get 500 signatures will have to get 300. But I would suggest getting the 5 percent."
Because people don't have to register to circulate petitions, it is not clear how many are running for office this year. All Common Council are open in Buffalo, including two where the incumbent is not seeking another term. City Board of Education and Erie County Legislature seats are also up for grabs. Zellner said it is his impression there are more candidates than past years.
"We've been able to get out all the petition packets at the party. We've been able to distribute them to almost every single town and nearly every zone in the City of Buffalo, as well," he said. "In fact, more than usual they've come early and gotten their things. I think they want to get a start on this."