Safely Getting Signatures in a Pandemic? - Gotham Gazette
March 2, 2021

Today — Tuesday, March 2, 2021 — thousands of people are taking to the streets across the five boroughs. Armed with facemasks, gloves, hand sanitizer, more pens than you can imagine, and stacks of inconveniently-long papers, these determined New Yorkers have made the decision to participate in our democratic system by collecting petition signatures to help get candidates on the ballot. 

Disappointed does not begin to capture how the three of us and over 350 New York candidates are feeling. We are scared, and deeply concerned. After a year of failing to plan, months of public consternation, and a dismissal by a state judge, candidates, their staffs and volunteers are now forced to put their health, and the health of prospective constituents, at risk all in the name of an archaic, outdated process.

Politics permeates New York's judiciary - City & State NY
Rebecca C. Lewis - March 21, 2021
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Ortega, who is also a former judicial delegate, said politics still play a heavy role in who gets nominated for Supreme Court in Manhattan, but said the process allows for input from more people than in other boroughs. Democratic clubs interview potential nominees as the candidates figure out if they have enough delegate support to win – although it’s still a highly political process that doesn’t involve the voters directly. But even in Manhattan, judges have to be willing to do a lot of political jockeying to become a Supreme Court justice. And it’s not for everyone.

Press Conference: #SafetyOverSignatures
January 28, 2021
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A coalition of over 280 Democratic Clubs, political candidates, grassroots advocacy groups, and community leaders throughout New York State will amplify their call to protect the health of all New Yorkers by waiving the 2021 designating petition signature requirements, and instead allow any candidate who files a cover sheet with the appropriate Board of Elections (BOE) to be on the ballot. Collecting signatures for a successful designating petition creates an unacceptable risk of exposure to COVID-19 for candidates, their staff and volunteers, and political club members through what are essentially hundreds of thousands of mandated, non-socially distanced interactions.

#SafetyOverSignatures Press Release
January 28, 2021
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Corey Ortega, a Candidate for the New York City Council and one of the organizers of the letter, was just one of many who contracted COVID-19 while petitioning last year. His personal experience with the virus, coupled with having diabetes which puts him at greater risk for severe illness, is more than enough for Ortega to believe petitioning should be canceled. “Communities of color like mine have been disproportionately impacted by COVID, as well as underlying health conditions, like diabetes. To ask those same communities to choose between protecting their health and exercising their right to democratic representation is wrong. I cannot ask my district or my city to choose between supporting democracy and preserving public health, so I am asking the State to do the right thing and provide alternatives that support both,” Ortega said.

N.Y. candidates and lawmakers want to cancel ballot petitions due to COVID concerns - NY Daily News
Denis Slattery - January 28, 2021
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"My district has 13 candidates and the requirement of in-person signatures for that many candidates would mean thousands of interpersonal interactions that would not happen otherwise in my district alone,” Corey Ortega, who’s running for City Council, said during a virtual rally Thursday.

NYC candidates say it’s unsafe to collect voter signatures amid pandemic - New York Post

Carl Campanile - January 10, 2021

Corey Ortega, who was sick with COVID last year and is running for a vacant council seat in Northern Manhattan, said it would be crazy to require candidates or their supporters to petition for voter signatures while a more contagious super strain of the virus is circulating.

Ortega said merely reducing the number of voter signature collections is unacceptable — and unsafe.

‘What are you going to do? Put people a little less in harm’s way. It’s all or nothing. I’m a competitive person but I don’t want to put my opponents or their families in harm’s way,’ he said.

Ortega said a better alternative would be evaluating campaign contributions as level of support to determine ballot eligibility.

Women Running for City Council Challenge the Opposition to Ranked-Choice Voting - Gothamist
Brigid Bergin, WNYC - December 14, 2020

"Ranked-Choice Voting is a pro-voter reform that addresses the inequities that limit voters’ choices,” said Corey Ortega, former Executive Director to the Council’s Black, Latino and Asian (BLA) Caucus and candidate for City Council in Upper Manhattan.

“RCV means you can vote for the candidates you support and who you believe would best represent you, not against the candidate or political machine you oppose.

RCV means that the winner will be chosen by the majority of the district, which, in a majority minority district like mine, is vital.”

Op-Ed - A COVID Winter is Coming for NYCHA - New York County Politics

New York County Politics - December 1, 2020

COVID’s Winter is coming, but we’re not ready for the cold-weather challenges that lie ahead of us in our NYCHA developments.

We can’t afford to repeat past winters, especially without any mercy from COVID-19. To stave off the worst and protect tenants from the bracing cold of winter and from the second wave of COVID-19, leaders need to come together to take action today. Here’s what we’re doing to organize our community towards tangible solutions while simultaneously waiting on a possible vaccine that Gov. Cuomo will distribute and prioritize for communities of color which definitely includes NYCHA residents.

Op-Ed: Campaign Petitioning is Too Dangerous - New York County Politics

New York County Politics - November 30, 2020

It is only the beginning of the 2021 municipal election cycle, but it is already shaping up to be highly consequential for the future of our city. Our leadership will be transformed as over 300 candidates run in a historically high number of competitive elections for open City Council seats and citywide offices.

These races are taking place while we bear the devastating losses of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Campaigning during a public health crisis must look different: it is imperative that communities can participate in our democracy and stay safe while doing so.

This means avoiding as the direct and in-person interactions integral to traditional campaigning as possible to reduce the spread of COVID-19, and practicing social distancing and organizing digitally is the best way we can do exactly that.

Interview with James Felton Keith - Inclusionism @ WFCR 90.3FM

Given this pandemic, we need leaders who will not only represent us ideologically but can get things done. Corey has worked in government at the city and state levels and organized the elect members themselves as Executive Director of the Black Latino & Asian Caucus.

He is currently an elected District Leader in the 70th Assembly District and founded the West Harlem Progressive Democrats, and most recently founded the COVID Coalition to get food and resources to thousands of NYers who are sick and shut-in during these trying months.