Campaigns & Elections

Only two minor parties in New York will keep their ballot access

The four parties that failed to meet the state’s new requirements aren’t giving up without a fight.

Sochie Nnaemeka with Jamaal Bowman and Jumaane Williams.

Sochie Nnaemeka with Jamaal Bowman and Jumaane Williams. WFP

The fate of New York’s third parties was up in the air this year and as the dust settles after Election Day, it appears only two of the state’s six minor parties will keep their ballot lines. But the other third parties are not giving up just yet, as they plan their next steps to overturn the new laws regarding ballot access.

This year, the state required third parties to secure either 130,000 votes or 2% of the vote cast – whichever was higher – every two years in the races for governor and president. As of now, only the Working Families Party and Conservative Party mustered enough support to keep their ballot lines past the end of this year. Based on the immediate results, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris received 293,428 votes on the WFP line, amounting to about 4.41% of vote total so far. “New York’s progressive movement is stronger than ever,” WFP State Director Sochie Nnaemeka said in a statement. She called the party’s apparent success at maintaining its ballot access “a victory for our party and our movement.”

Meanwhile, Donald Trump and Mike Pence received 256,312 votes on the Conservative Party line, or 3.85% of the vote so far. “New Yorkers who chose to vote on the Conservative Line are making a statement that fiscal responsibility, law and order, less government involvement, and adherence to the values of our Founding Fathers, is what makes America the greatest nation in the world,” state Conservative Party Chair Gerard Kassar said in a statement.

Both minor parties were able to cross-endorse the two major-party tickets thanks to a practice in New York known as fusion voting, which allows candidates to appear on multiple party lines in an election. Third parties like the Working Families Party and Conservative Party have consistently used this ability to support major-party candidates, and they rarely run their own candidates to avoid the spoiler effect. The WFP also engaged in extensive public campaigning to get out the vote on its party line.

Three other parties nominated their own candidates for president, and they each fell well short of the new requirements. Howie Hawkins received 23,258 votes on the Green Party line, Jo Jorgensen got 47,745 votes on the Libertarian Party line and Brock Pierce garnered only 17,639 votes on the Independence Party line (not to be confused with independents who are unaffiliated with any party). The final official third party in the state, the Serve America Movement, did not nominate a candidate for president. It, along with the Libertarian Party, qualified for automatic ballot access for the first time in 2018.

For decades, minor parties in New York only needed 50,000 votes in the gubernatorial race every four years in order to maintain their automatic ballot access. In addition to making it easier for their candidates to get on the ballot, it meant they could set up an official party apparatus, nominate candidates and hold primaries. The perks of being an official party include being able to create party and campaign committees, which is a great help to the party’s fundraising and spending capabilities, and a housekeeping committee to cover party expenses.

The state Legislature passed new ballot access rules as part of this year’s state budget. Political observers considered them to be the brainchild of Gov. Andrew Cuomo and believed that he pushed for the new requirements to punish the Working Families Party, with which he has feuded for years. Cuomo repeatedly denied both pushing for the new requirements and holding any ill will toward the WFP.

But minor parties are not giving up without a fight – ongoing court battles provide a potential avenue to save their ballot access. “We’re not dead yet,” state Libertarian Party Chair Cody Anderson told City & State. The Libertarian Party and Green Party filed a federal lawsuit in July challenging the constitutionality of the new ballot access requirements. And now that they haven’t met the voter threshold, the parties have demonstratable harm caused by the law that they can present in court. Anderson said the party’s executive committee will meet in the next few days to discuss its next steps along with the Green Party. “We by no means have exhausted all our legal remedies yet,” Anderson said. “And regardless of the outcome in the Southern District, we intend to appeal as far as necessary to get a final word on it.”

The Green Party said it is already fighting back against the election night outcome in an attempt to maintain democratic choice in New York outside of the two major parties and the fusion voting system. “The Green Party will never surrender to this assault on our basic right to political organization,” the party said in a statement. “We will win, because poll after poll shows everyday people want these changes.”

The Serve America Movement also filed a federal lawsuit in January, and it was later joined by the WFP, to overturn the new ballot requirements. The suit is ongoing, but a federal judge denied the two minor parties’ request for a preliminary injunction to suspend the law before this year’s election. The Serve America Movement did not return a request for comment, nor did the Independence Party.

If neither of these lawsuits yield successful outcomes for the plaintiffs, the four minor parties who underperformed in this election will lose their ballot access at the start of next year, leaving them with a long and difficult road ahead to regain their places on the ballot.