State Supreme Court Justice John L. Michalski reserved decision Tuesday on whether to restore Buffalo School Board incumbent Ralph Hernandez to the ballot as a candidate for the West District in the upcoming board elections, scheduled for next Tuesday.
Hernandez, a nine-year veteran of the Buffalo Board of Education, was tossed off the ballot by the Erie County Board of Elections last week for not having enough valid petition signatures.
He submitted 1,084 signatures with his petitions and needed only 500 to appear on the ballot.
But last week, the Elections Board determined that 654 of his signatures were invalid, leaving him 70 shy of the number he needs to run as a listed candidate.
Tuesday afternoon, Hernandez’s lawyer, Timothy Lovallo, argued at length that 90 signatures deserved to be reinstated because the witness who gathered the petitions truly lives in the city’s West District even though his voter registration card lists his address as being at his mother’s house on Lake Shore Road in Hamburg.
Lovallo and the witness, Benjamin A. Matta, said Matta lived at his mother’s house for only a few months after a breakup with a girlfriend.
Emilio Colaiacovo, the lawyer for West District candidate James Sampson, responded that Matta worked for the county Board of Elections for two years before being fired. Given that background, he questioned why Matta didn’t take more proactive steps to ensure his voter registration card listed a new city address when he presumably moved back to the district.
Michalski is expected to issue his decision sometime today.. If Michalski rules in favor of restoring 90 signatures to Hernandez’s petitions, Colaiacovo said he is prepared to reappear before the judge Thursday to prove that Hernandez’s petitions are filled with fraudulent signatures and should be thrown out in their entirety.
Hernandez, meanwhile, said he’s already moving forward on the assumption that he will be waging an aggressive write-in campaign to retain his seat.