Two candidates for office in Queens were removed from the ballot by the Board of Elections on Thursday because the names they’re running under do not match those under which they’re registered to vote.
The candidates and many of their supporters, however, claim their removal from the ballot is racist, due to a largely white establishment wanting to keep women of color in particular from gaining power. One of their backers likened the name discrepancy to former President Bill Clinton’s running under that moniker rather than William.
The two candidates are Mary Jobaida, who seeks to unseat state Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan (D-Long Island City), and Moumita Ahmed, who is running for Democratic district leader in Assembly District 31 in Jamaica. Both are Muslims of Bengali descent.
Ahmed said she was removed unfairly because the BOE sent her a letter about how her name would appear that she never received.
One board official unfavorably compared the name changes the women sought to a man named Anthony wanting to be listed as Tony, according to a video Ahmed posted to Twitter and tweets from supporters.
“To listen to that, it was so discriminatory against a Muslim population and the Bangladeshi community that is already dealing with so much,” Ahmed said through tears in the video. “And I’m running in a district where there’s no representation for us, and I’m running to support them — I’ve been delivering food to poor, working-class families so that they can survive, and I’m running to represent them, and the Board of Elections is so racist.”
She said it was the board’s fault for not sending its correspondence certified mail.
Jobaida and many supporters said the board’s action is xenophobic.
In one tweet using the candidates’ Twitter handles, the South Asian American Voters Association said, “This is totally xenophobic attempt to keep @disruptionary and @maryforassembly off the ballot. We strongly condemning the action to silence our south Asian community.”
“Thank you for lending your voice!” Jobaida responded. “Let’s fight the xenophobia together.”
City Councilman Costa Constantinides (D-Astoria), who himself is running for Queens borough president, condemned the BOE’s decision and echoed the charge of xenophobia.
“Queens is the most diverse place on Earth with a growing immigrant population, who deserve to have a voice,” Constantinides said in a statement. “Two Muslim women were kicked off the ballot for shortening their names on their petitions. However, this is a common practice used by many elected officials including Bill Clinton (William) and Marty Markowitz (Martin). At face value, the decisions against Mary Jobaida and Moumita Ahmed was a xenophobic attempt to keep two women of color from entering the political discourse.
“We need more diverse voices, both in background and in thought, now more than ever. These are unprecedented times in which the Bangladeshi community is hit particularly hard. The Board of Elections should recognize the trials we face right now, and allow people who have worked to appear on the ballot to have a shot to represent their communities.”
The candidates, who were represented before the board by attorney Ali Najmi, said they will go to court to fight for their places on the ballot.
A spokesperson for the BOE did not immediately respond to questions on the dispute asked via email.