Governor Hochul Signs Legislation Clarifying Acceptable Names for Ballots and Election Petitions

Legislation (S.1133/A.4136) Clarifies the Use of Alternate Names on Ballots and Election Petitions as Acceptable If Commonly Used and Not Intended to Mislead Voters 

Governor Kathy Hochul signed legislation (S.1133/A.4136) to clarify the definition of what constitutes an acceptable name for candidates to use to identify themselves on a ballot or petition. Recently, two Muslim women running for elected office in Queens, Mary Jobaida and Moumita Ahmed, were removed from the ballot by the Board of Elections because the names they used on their designating petitions did not match their registered voter names.

Gov. Kathleen Hochul

“New York’s greatest strength is its diversity, and it is imperative that our state’s government reflects the people it serves,” Governor Hochul said. “This bill is a step in the right direction to removing the institutional barriers that limit political participation from any community.”

This legislation addresses the fact that many people with ethnically traditional names unfamiliar to the general population adopt an alternate or anglicized name which is easier to remember or pronounce and that they should not be penalized for doing so. The legislation clarifies that the use of alternate or anglicized names on election petitions and ballots is acceptable as long as the chosen name is commonly used to identify that person in the person’s community and its use is not intended to mislead voters or petition signers.

According to State Senator John Liu, “Candidates should be able to run for office using the nickname they are commonly known by in their communities, as long as they do not intend to mislead or confuse voters. In recent years, the Board of Elections tried to kick several immigrant women off the ballot for using the names they are widely known by personally and professionally, rather than their given names. This legislation changes that undemocratic practice once and for all and helps candidates of color and immigrant candidates have equal access to the ballot as men with nicknames like ‘Marty,’ ‘Tony,’ or ‘Bill.’ Thank you to Governor Hochul for signing this important bill into law.”