Two days into a court review of the petitions, Hicks admitted that allegations brought forth by Congressman's John Hall campaign were true, and that he didn't uphold the law "in the traditional sense" when gathering signatures for the Independence Party line.
Third parties, such as the Independence Party, often use notaries to reduce errors and petition mishandling. Importantly, notaries must swear each person in before they sign a petition sheet. Hall's campaign had alleged that Hayworth's campaign had not met the legal criteria and that her notaries consistently perpetuated fraud when gathering signatures and petitions had been handled by those who were not notaries, which is a violation of New York State law.
And while Hicks, along with two other notaries, admitted to not following New York law, Hayworth's campaign manager attempted to distance his personal petition practices from the campaign he manages. On the stand, Hicks denied coordinating the campaign's petition process, first claiming he did not know who was responsible and later making the feeble claim that nobody had coordinated this extremely critical step in ballot access.
The Hayworth campaign categorically and vehemently rejects the allegations that any campaign staffer, notary or others engaged in deliberate fraud regarding Independence Party petitions.
I'm wondering if Hayworth's campaign is sticking to that claim, or if the message was a deliberate parsing of words. It seems that while they're now admitting to mishandling the petitions, they've denied that they did so deliberately, thus absolving them, at least in their minds, from the taint of fraud.
Hall's campaign responded to Hick's admission:
"I'm glad that Mr. Hicks came clean that he never swore in signers, despite a clear legal requirement for him to do so. He's an experienced attorney and this is not his first election. He should have known better than to break the law," Hall campaign manager Patrick McGarrity said. "However, his efforts to deny that anyone in the Hayworth campaign coordinated their petition efforts is disingenuous at best. Somehow, a petition arrived at the New York State Board of Elections in Albany."
One other Hayworth campaign worker, a notary, testified to not swearing in petition signers as required by law. Other Hayworth notaries defended their petition practices, despite the insistence of signers who claim they were not sworn in.
One local politician, a Yorktown City Councilman, Vishnu Patel, has admitted his involvement in the mishandling of petitions, claiming that he gathered a signature for his wife and then turning the page over to his wife to notarize. Councilman Patel is not a member of the Independence Party or a notary and cannot carry Independence Party petitions.
The notary section on a petition page is a written legal declaration. The document must not only attest to the identity of those signing it, but the identity of the person carrying the petition. It is also required that notaries not just identify petition signers, but witness that signers, in fact, wish for the candidate to be the party's nominee, thus they must swear in petition signers. Notaries who violate this process are found to have committed fraud.
Patel's wife, Dipika, contradicted her husband during her testimony, claiming that she gathered more than 70 signatures herself. The Hall campaign, however, has collected multiple affidavits from petition signees regarding the Patels handling of petitions, which disputes the claims made by both. Hall's campaign maintains that the Patels systemically committed fraud.
Hall's campaign backs up their claim in a press release:
"It seems more than suspect that the only instance of fraud that Patel admitted to is the one that was extensively covered by News 12 in the days preceding his appearance in court," Hall manager McGarrity said. "Patel went into the trial knowing specifically of one signature that we had evidence against. There is absolutely no credibility to his claim that this one 'mistake' is the limit to the fraud he perpetrated."
New York Supreme Court Justice Michael C. Lynch is working on the schedule for further court proceedings where Hall's campaign intends to prove that these admitted instances of misconduct, as well as others, show a pattern notarial fraud significant enough to invalidate many of Hayworth's Independence Party petitions.