Suppressing ballot access is a violation of voting rights

Suppressing ballot access is a violation of voting rights

Albany Times Union, May 12, 2022

On April 19, members of the Green Party of New York began soliciting the 45,000 voters’ signatures they need to gather in 42 days by May 31 to place the party’s gubernatorial ticket of Howie Hawkins for governor and Gloria Mattera for lieutenant governor on the ballot. Thanks to Democratic legislators who tripled the signature and vote requirements for ballot access at the urging of then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo as part of the state budget package in April 2020, New York now has one of the most difficult independent nominating petition systems 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 parties’ primaries for statewide office. The fundamental unfairness is apparent.

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 used in Vladimir 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 whom 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 or Republican candidates. Exit polling in 2016 showed that 61 percent 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 have done in New York. It is what the Green Party is fighting to end and replace with an inclusive multi-party democracy based on fair ballot access, ranked-choice voting for statewide offices, and proportional representation in the state Legislature.

Howie Hawkins of Syracuse is a retired Teamster.

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