Newcomer Parties Balk at Magnifying-Glass Voting in NY

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (CN) – Happier to team up in court than on the ballot, two New York political parties have sued to overturn an election law that consolidates political endorsements.

(AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

The Independence Party of New York and the Upstate Jobs Party, a recent newcomer, brought the petition-complaint Tuesday in Onondaga County Supreme Court, taking aim at a new requirement in recent elections that has consolidated mentions of smaller political parties and independent political bodies on voter ballots.

As noted in the complaint, this change had grave consequences for the Upstate Jobs Party founder, Martin Babinec, when he ran for Congress in 2016. Because Babinec had multiple party endorsements, his name “was placed upon the line for the Libertarian and Reform parties, but only a microscopic designation above his name on the Libertarian line indicated any association with the UJP, the party he himself had founded.”

The UJP and Independence Party call out so-called fusion voting as “the latest iteration of a century-long effort to inhibit the growth and power of independent bodies.”

“Even after overcoming every obstacle and managing to successfully place one of its candidates on the ballot, New York still manages to wrest an independent body of its hard-won ballot line and deprive the independent body of its own line on the ballot,” the 32-page filing by the parties states.

The petition also quotes an attorney for the New York State Board of Elections as saying last year that vote totals for independent bodies are “indistinguishable” when they are merged with political parties, making it hard for groups like UJP to claim enough votes to become recognized as a political party in the state.

A newly created political party like UJP needs at least 50,000 votes in a gubernatorial race to receive automatic ballot access in New York.

Alleging discrimination, the challengers say New York is “blurring the independent and conflicting identities of these separate political organizations, diluting their brands, and making it impossible for voters to choose the one political organization that is most consistent with such voter’s individual political beliefs.”

The UJP’s Babinec blasted the law as a deliberate effort by the politically power to entrench the two-party system and thwart new contenders. “This approach to elections has hurt candidates on the UJP line for multiple elections and must end now,” Babinec said in a statement.

The Update Jobs Party, which Babinec founded in 2016, is focused on revitalizing the economy in New York’s upstate counties and promoting government transparency.

The party has filed petitions and lawsuits seeking to overturn other state election laws, including one in 2016 that sought to overturn the ballot-fusion process after UJP was merged with the Libertarian Party in a county election.

The Independence Party of New York, an affiliate of the national Independence Party, is one of a handful of political parties officially recognized in the state. The party typically supports conservative-leaning candidates though it states it is comprised of “individuals from across the political spectrum.”

The Board of Elections did not return a call seeking comment. New York’s ballot-consolidation rules apply only to candidates for municipal or federal office and do not apply to candidates for governor, state senator, or members of the assembly.

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