[Marxism] NY Times: Democrats' Secret Plan to Kill Third Parties in New York
ginsberg.alan1 at gmail.com
Tue Oct 29 07:58:26 MDT 2019
(This article focuses on third parties that frequently endorse major party
candidates, but the Democrats' plan would also affect genuinely independent
third parties, and make it for difficult for the Green Party to maintain
its position on the New York ballot. The primary target of the proposal is
the Working Families Party, which generally supports Democrats, but is to
the left of Governor Cuomo.)
By Vivian Wang
Oct. 29, 2019
The chairman of the New York State Democratic Party is pushing a proposal
that would essentially neuter almost all third parties, crippling one of
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s biggest political nemeses but also potentially
The proposal from the chairman, Jay Jacobs, would quintuple the number of
votes that a political party needs to guarantee a spot on the ballot in the
next election. A party currently needs 50,000 votes for its candidate for
governor to secure a spot for the next four years.
Mr. Jacobs, in a private email to a group of state commissioners reviewing
parts of New York election law, proposed raising the number to roughly
At first glance, it might seem a strange position for any Democrat, let
alone the head of the state’s Democratic Party, to take.
Nearly every minor party has fallen short of collecting 250,000 votes,
including, and perhaps especially, the Working Families Party, a
progressive group that shares many Democratic Party ideals yet has been one
of the most reliable antagonists of Mr. Jacobs and his close ally Mr. Cuomo.
Only the Conservative Party has been able to surpass the 250,000 vote mark
in recent years. If just that party survived, a candidate could then run on
both the Conservative and Republican lines — New York election law allows
candidates to run on multiple lines — while a liberal candidate would have
no such advantage.
“Conservatives have an awful lot of support,” Mr. Jacobs said when asked
about the idea. “There’s no question that they will have an easier time
meeting these thresholds.”
“I can see that that could be problematic,” he added.
Mr. Jacobs, whom Mr. Cuomo appointed to the state commission, insisted that
his proposal was aimed at reducing voter confusion and rooting out
corruption among “sham” parties that he said trade their ballot lines for
political favors. He did not specify which parties he was referring to.
“A lot of people have been getting away with an awful lot for a long time,”
Mr. Jacobs said. “In my mind, it will be better overall if elections are
run with only really credible parties.”
For the W.F.P. and its supporters, the proposal is the latest attempt by
Mr. Jacobs and Mr. Cuomo to silence one of their most prominent political
rivals. For the past few months, Mr. Jacobs has all but declared war on
third parties, advancing multiple proposals to ban them. Mr. Cuomo, though
he has not explicitly sought to ban the W.F.P., has said that he knew Mr.
Jacobs’s stance when he chose him for the commission.
The dispute is also the most recent front in the feud between Mr. Cuomo and
an increasingly emboldened mass of left-wing activists and politicians who
have cast Mr. Cuomo and his allies as centrists bent on obstruction.
Mr. Jacobs made the proposal in an email on Oct. 16, soon after a meeting
of the commission. It was created by the Legislature in April to design a
small-donor matching system for state elections, but in the months since,
much to the angst of the W.F.P., the commission also turned to the question
of third parties.
In the email, Mr. Jacobs asked a lawyer for the group, as well as the other
eight commissioners, whether it had the power to raise the threshold for a
guaranteed ballot line.
Traditionally, the W.F.P. and other minor parties had been able to meet the
50,000-vote threshold relatively easily, in part because candidates are
allowed to run on multiple lines, known as fusion voting. Progressives can,
for example, choose to vote for the Democratic candidate on the W.F.P. line
to send a message about their political priorities without worrying about
wasting a vote.
Mr. Jacobs asked the lawyer if the commission could require parties to
achieve “an amount equal to 2 percent of all registered voters in the
state” in races for president and governor.
Two percent of New York’s 12,695,762 registered voters is 253,915 votes. In
the last election for governor, the Conservative Party collected 253,624
votes. The W.F.P., the next highest vote-getter, collected about 114,000.
Mr. Jacobs said the details of the proposal were not final. He said he had
not yet discussed it with his fellow commissioners, who must vote to
But he reaffirmed his commitment to a 250,000-vote benchmark, arguing that
allowing too many parties — especially if the state were to adopt a public
matching funds program — could spiral out of financial control.
The commission will make its recommendations in November. They will have
the force of law unless they are changed by the Legislature within three
A 250,000-vote threshold — roughly 4 percent of turnout in the 2018
governor’s election, or 6 percent of the 2014 turnout — would be almost
unmatched in its difficulty, said Richard Winger, the editor of Ballot
Access News, a publication that covers laws affecting minor parties.
“It would be in the company of Alabama; I don’t think New York has
considered that state a model,” Mr. Winger said. Alabama requires parties
to collect a number of petitions equal to 3 percent of the last vote for
Texas this year lowered its threshold from 5 percent of the vote in a
statewide contest to 2 percent.
Mr. Jacobs also pointed to Virginia and New Jersey as states that require
parties to win 10 percent of turnout in the last governor’s race. But
independent candidates there can also qualify by collecting a certain
number of petition signatures — in the case of New Jersey, just 100
signatures for a candidate for the House of Representatives.
That disparity has worried the W.F.P. and other minor parties, even among
those who acknowledge that 50,000 might be too low of a threshold. And it
has fueled already-rampant speculation in certain quarters about Mr.
Jacobs’s — and the governor’s — true intentions.
Some have accused Mr. Cuomo, through Mr. Jacobs, of seeking to undermine
the W.F.P., even at the cost of fellow Democrats’ electoral victories, in
order to maintain his grip on power in an increasingly blue Albany.
“I honestly have never understood why it is that, electorally, the governor
cannot seem and act as interested as we are in having as many Democrats in
the State Legislature as possible,” Senator Jessica Ramos, a Democrat who
won her seat with W.F.P. support last year, said.
She acknowledged that it was Mr. Jacobs, not Mr. Cuomo, who put the
proposal forward. But, she said, “there is no question that the two work
Rich Azzopardi, a senior adviser to Mr. Cuomo, denied the connection. “Per
usual, we don’t know what Senator Ramos is talking about,” he said. “It’s
not our proposal, but ultimately legislators would have the option to weigh
in on what the commission ultimately decides.”
Mr. Cuomo’s long, tortured history with the W.F.P., which has consistently
sought to nudge him to the left, has led to some unusual moments.
In 2014, Mr. Cuomo created a new third party, the Women’s Equality Party,
that was widely seen as an attempt to draw voters away from its similarly
initialed counterpart, the W.F.P.
Mr. Jacobs’s proposal would exclude the Women’s Equality Party as well — a
prospect that Mr. Jacobs, in a rare divergence from Mr. Cuomo, seemed to
“The Women’s Equality Party, they just support Democrats,” he said on
Monday. “These are sham parties.”
Mr. Jacobs, asked if he had spoken to the governor about the proposal,
“What I would only say is — this is not going to sound like the answer you
want — but I never discuss what I discuss with the governor,” he said. “I
wouldn’t assume that because I’m not answering it, it’s an answer you won’t
like. It’s just, if I begin to say on the one hand one thing, and another
time I don’t answer, it gives a different implication than I want.”
Still, he insisted on his independence: “What I do and what I say on this
commission have nothing to do with anyone else’s views: not the governor,
Vivian Wang is a reporter for the Metro Desk, covering New York State
politics in Albany. She was raised in Chicago and graduated from Yale
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