A State Supreme Court decision today reaffirmed the Erie County Board of Elections decision to throw nine-year Buffalo School Board veteran Ralph Hernandez off the ballot in Tuesday’s election because he had too many invalid petition signatures.

That means Hernandez will be waging a write-in campaign against opponent James Sampson in what is likely to be his most difficult election fight to date.

State Supreme Court Justice John L. Michalski heard arguments Tuesday on whether to restore the incumbent to the ballot as a candidate for the West District seat.

He informed the two lawyers in the case of his decision by phone today.

“I think the judge’s decision was very consistent with prior cases that have dealt with this issue,” said Emilio Colaiacovo, the lawyer representing Sampson.

Hernandez, a former Board of Education president, was tossed off the ballot by the Erie County Board of Elections last week for not having enough valid petition signatures. Hernandez 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 needed to appear on the ballot.

Tuesday afternoon, Hernandez’s lawyer, Timothy Lovallo, argued at length that 90 signatures deserved to be reinstated because the witness who gathered the petitions really does live 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.

Michalski, who has not yet issued a written decision, apparently was unswayed by the argument and sided with Board of Elections Commissioners Dennis Ward and Ralph Mohr.

Hernandez, meanwhile, said that since last week he’s been moving forward on the assumption that he’ll be waging an aggressive write-in campaign to retain his seat next Tuesday and expressed confidence in the loyalty of West District voters.