from Free and Equal
Democrats, Republicans Attempt to Limit Voter Choice in New York State
Petition Challenges Seek to Eliminate Independent and Third Party Candidates
August 31, 2009 – After filing the necessary petitions required for ballot access in New York state, several independent and third party candidates find themselves squaring off with Democrats and Republicans long before election day, thanks to the archaic and cumbersome regulations governing nominating petitions.
New York state law has stringent requirements for nominating petitions. In the past, candidates have been kicked off the ballot for little more than clerical errors.
“It is essential that every “I” be dotted, every “T” be crossed, and every petition bound according to the exact specifications of New York state law,” said Sean Haugh of the Free & Equal Elections Foundation. “As someone who has collected signatures in New York this election cycle and previously, I have seen first hand how the Democrats and Republicans use these burdensome requirements to limit the voters’ choices in New York.”
Any individual voter can challenge the validity of a nominating petition in New York state. The challenger must submit the specific objections within six days of filing the original challenge.
The Free & Equal Elections Foundation is aware of several nominating petitions being challenged. Specifics of the challenges were due at the end of last week.
The Free & Equal Elections Foundation awaits information on the specific challenges, and will continue preparing to defend the nominating petitions of several independent and third party candidates.
Further complicating the process of defending these challenges, many county Boards of Elections operate in near total secrecy.
In Suffolk County, Libertarian Party officials had to file a request under the federal Freedom of Information Act just to see the documentation of the objections against their candidates.
In Monroe County, which includes Rochester, candidates who are challenged are not even informed of when the hearing of objections will take place.
In Suffolk County, the petition of the Libertarian Party slate for Sheriff, District Attorney and County Treasurer have been challenged. The individual challenge comes from Rosemary Marchlowska, a Democratic Party State Committee member.
Democrats and Republicans have cross-endorsed the same candidates for these three county offices in Suffolk County. If the challenge is successful, voters will have no choice on the ballot in these races.
In the race for Rochester Commissioner of Schools, candidate Chris Edes, already on the ballot as a Democrat, had his Libertarian Party signatures challenged. That challenge comes from Marcos Cruz, son of Commissioner of Schools candidate Jose Cruz.
Outside of Rochester in Sweden, Libertarian Party candidate for Town Board Tim Bates was also challenged.
Green Party candidate for Mayor of Rochester Alex White also faces a challenge. If the challenge is upheld, the mayor’s race will go uncontested.
“I’m running because no other party would put someone up to run against the Mayor,” White said. “Every politician, no matter what party, should be held accountable, including Mayor [Bob] Duffy. That is why I’m calling for all voters in the city to tell the Democratic machine that enough is enough. We want a choice at the ballot.”
In North Castle in Westchester County, Libertarian candidates also are being challenged. Again, if these challenges are upheld, only one candidate would be on the general election ballot in these races.
“Once again, the Democrats and Republicans are paralyzed with the fear of how the citizens of New York will vote given a real choice on their ballot,” said Christina Tobin, Founder and Chair of The Free & Equal Elections Foundation.
“The two-party duopoly that poisons our electoral process would rather fight behind the scenes at the Board of Elections than on the campaign trail,” Tobin continued. “Free & Equal looks forward to defending the challenged petitions, and to ensuring that the voters of New York have a chance to stand up to the Democrats and Republicans by voting for Independent and third party candidates this November.”