Green Party Memo: Fair Ballot Access Bill
To: Members of the New York State Assembly and State Senate
From: Green Party of New York
Date: February 7, 2022
Re: Fair Ballot Access Bill
We would like to see a Fair Ballot Access bill enacted that would restore reasonable ballot access requirements for the 2022 elections.
At the end of this memo we suggest changes to the language of the current Election Law that would restore the petition signature and vote requirements that were in place before the April 2020 amendments to the Election Law. Those amendments basically tripled the petition signature and vote requirements to obtain and maintain a ballot line for minor parties.
- Change the signatures required from 45,000 back to 15,000.
- Change the signatures required in half of the congressional districts from 500 back to 100.
- Change votes from required from 130,000 or 2%, whichever is greater, back to 50,000.
- Change the frequency with which the ballot access requirements must be met from every 2 years for president and governor back to every 4 years for governor.
- Make the petition signature filing period between 17 and 18 weeks before the general election. In 2022, that would mean a six-week signature collection period between May 31 and July 12.
- Adjust the deadlines for filing independent nominating petitions, certificates of acceptance or declination, and certificates to fill a vacancy to the new independent nominating petition filing deadline.
The case for these changes includes the following points:
Voting rights should include candidate access to the ballot as well as voter access to the ballot.
Voting rights should include the right to vote for who you want and not have who you want excluded from the ballot.
Party suppression is form of voter suppression. The Green Party brings more voters out. 2016 exit pollsfound that 61% of Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein’s voters would have not voted if she had not been on the ballot.
New York’s new ballot access law is the most difficult in the nation given the high number of signatures and the short time to collect them. The few other states with comparably high signature requirements all provide for many more months to collect signatures and some have other paths to the ballot, including minimum party registration and/or a party petition without candidates that can be filed at any time.
The new vote standard for ballot qualification – 130,000 or 2%, whichever is greater – is effectively well over three times the previous standard of 50,000 voters. 2% of the vote in 2020 was 172,388 votes.
Third parties that ran their own candidates in 2020 were eliminated from the ballot. The only third parties that maintained ballot status were the fusion parties that normally cross-endorse one of the two major party candidates on their ballot line. The result is a closed two-party system with four ballot lines and usually two candidates: Democratic/Working Families and Republican/Conservative.
New York’s ballots have not been too crowded. The most candidates ever on ballots for statewide office in New York were 10 for Governor in 1998, 8 for U.S. Senator in 2000, and 8 for president in 2000 (Ballot Access News, Feb. 2022, Dec. 2021, Aug. 2021). The numbers were going down before the 2020 ballot access exclusion law: 5 for governor in 2018, 2 for U.S. Senator in 2018, and 4 for president in 2016.
The rationale for excluding minor parties because their candidates might qualify for the matching funds system is wrong on three counts:
Matching funds go to candidates, not parties. Minor party candidates who can get on the ballot by independent nominating petition, notably in state legislative elections where the signature requirements have not been increased, can qualify for matching funds.
The exclusionary ballot access requirements went into effect for the 2020 election, but the matching funds are not available until the 2024 election cycle.
Partisan bias against minor parties in access to matching funds is anti-democratic rigging of elections.
The June-July petitioning period enables fusion candidates who lose their major party primary to not be stuck on a minor party ballot line because the independent nominating petitions would be filed after the party primaries.
This June-July petitioning period is a better period for new and minor parties to collect signatures than April-May because petitioners for new and minor parties tend to be young, college is out, and summer events enable petitioners to talk to many voters.
The effect of more parties on the ballot will be about the same for both major parties, with the Greens mostly taking votes on the left, the Libertarians mostly taking votes on the right, and a possible centrist party taking votes from both major parties.
Below are suggested amendments to sections of the current Election Law that we have identified as relevant to making the changes we proposed above. It is not a draft bill. We assume legislative staff can use these suggestions to draft a bill.
§ 1–104. Definitions
3. The term ‘‘party’’ means any political organization which at the last preceding election for governor polled at least fifty thousand votes for its candidate for governor. , excluding blank and void ballots, at the last preceding election for governor received, at least two percent of the total votes cast for its candidate for governor, or one hundred thirty thousand votes, whichever is greater, in the year in which a governor is elected and at least two percent of the total votes cast for its candidate for president, or one hundred thirty thousand votes, whichever is greater, in a year when a president is elected.
§ 6–142. Independent nominations; number of signatures
1. An independent nominating petition for candidates to be voted for by all the voters of the state must be signed by at least fifteen forty-five thousand voters, or one percent of the total number of votes, excluding blank and void ballots, cast for the office of governor at the last gubernatorial election, whichever is less, of whom at least onefive hundred, or one percent of enrolled voters, whichever is less, shall reside in each of one-half of the congressional districts of the State.
§ 6–158. Nominating and designating petitions and certificates, conventions; times for filing and holding
9. A petition for an independent nomination for an office to be filled at the time of a general election shall be filed not earlier than eighteen twenty-four weeks and not later than seventeen twenty-three weeks preceding such election. A petition for an independent nomination for an office to be filled at a special election shall be filed not later than twelve days following the issuance of a proclamation of such election.
11. A certificate of acceptance or declination of an independent nomination for an office to be filled at the time of a general election shall be filed not later than the third day after the seventeenth twenty-third Tuesday preceding such election except that a candidate who files such a certificate of acceptance for an office for which there have been filed certificates or petitions designating more than one candidate for the nomination of any party, may thereafter file a certificate of declination not later than the third day after the primary election. A certificate of acceptance or declination of an independent nomination for an office to be filled at a special election shall be filed not later than fourteen days following the issuance of a proclamation of such election.
12. A certificate to fill a vacancy caused by a declination of an independent nomination for an office to be filled at the time of a general election shall be filed not later than the sixth day after the seventeenth twenty-third Tuesday preceding such election. A certificate to fill a vacancy caused by a declination of an independent nomination for an office to be filled at a special election shall be filed not later than sixteen days following the issuance of a proclamation of such election.