New York’s Ballot Access Petition Is the Most Difficult in the Nation and the World
By Howie Hawkins
April 19, 2022
As the Green Party of New York begins today to collect 45,000 voters’ signatures in 42 days in order to put its gubernatorial ticket on the ballot, New York Democratic legislators should be condemned for enacting in 2020 the most difficult independent nominating petition in the nation and the world.
Independent and new party candidates for statewide office now have to get three times more signatures than the 15,000 that the major party candidates have to get to qualify for their party’s primary.
Since most democratic countries have parliamentary systems without an independently elected chief executive, we can see how anti-democratic and exclusionary New York’s new ballot access requirements are by comparing the petitioning requirements to run as an independent for the House of Representatives to that for independents running for the national legislatures of other countries.
To run as an independent or new party candidate for the House of Representatives in the United States, it takes thousands or tens of thousands of petition signatures in New York and most states to get placed on the ballot. In New York, it takes 3,500 signatures; over 5,000 in Ohio; over 7,500 in North Carolina; 10,400 in Florida; over 15,000 in Arizona and Illinois; over 20,000 in Georgia and Oklahoma; over 30,000 in Alabama; over 40,000 in Indiana. Most other states are in the 1,000 to 5,000 range.
To run as an independent for the House of Commons in the U.K., it takes 10 signatures. It takes 10 signatures for the Lok Sabha, India’s lower house of parliament. In New Zealand, it takes two signatures to run as an independent for its unicameral parliament. It takes 100 for Australia’s House of Representatives and Canada’s parliament (and only 50 in the more rural election districts called ridings). For Germany’s parliament, the Bundestag, it takes 200 signatures to run as an independent.
On the other hand, some U.S. states have substantially lower petition signature requirements to run as an independent for the House of Representatives than New York’s 3,500, including Idaho, 500; Iowa, 375; Hawaii, 25; Louisiana, 0 ($900 filing fee); New Jersey, 200; Kentucky, 400; Rhode Island, 250; Tennessee, 25; Utah, 300; Vermont, 500; and Washington, 0 ($1,740 filing fee).
New York's 42-day petitioning period for 45,000 signatures is the shortest in the nation except for Rhode Island's 11 days for 1,000 signatures. Most states have no petitioning period limit. The other states that limit the petitioning period allow for several months to a year or two to collect the required signatures.
In New York, the Green Party is proposing a bill to return to the pre-2020 standard for statewide independent nominations of 15,000 signatures in 42 days.
Ironically, the Greens are proposing to return to the difficult standard that obtains in Putin’s Russia, where it takes 15,000 signatures in 45 days to run as an independent for the highest office in Russia’s 85 regions, which is representative to the State Duma, the national parliament. As the Moscow Times has noted, that standard is "a high bar that has dissuaded all but a handful of contenders from running."
Voting rights should include candidate access as well as voter access to the ballot. Voters should have the right to vote for who they want once they have their ballot. Green Party candidates bring out voters who would otherwise not vote because they don’t support the Democratic and Republican candidates. 2016 exit polling showed that 61% of Green presidential candidate Jill Stein’s voters would have stayed home if she had not been on the ballot.
Party suppression is a form of voter suppression. It is what authoritarian governments do. It is what the Democrats do in New York. It is what the Green Party is fighting to end and replace with a multi-party inclusive democracy based on Fair Ballot Access, Ranked-Choice Voting for statewide offices, and Proportional Representation in the state legislature.