The state committee of the Green Party of New York met on Saturday, February 1 for one its tri-annual meetings. The all-day meeting worked its way through a substantial agenda, including:
- Reports from officers, staff, and committees.
- Adoption of amendments to the party rules and policies.
- Adoption of rules for the Green presidential primary and the election of delegates committed to each presidential candidate in proportion to their primary vote at the May 16 party convention.
- Review of the 2020 party budget.
- Discussion of the party ballot line defense strategy, including the lawsuit with the Libertarian Party against the state’s new ballot qualification law.
- Discussion of party’s policy agenda for this year’s state legislative session.
- Discussion of 2020 candidates for state and congressional offices.
The delegates to the state committee are elected by the party’s county organizations. They come from across the state, from Long Island to Buffalo. The Green Party of New York is an active and well-organized party that would be on the ballot of the electoral system of any government that was committed to fair elections. But the Democratic Party of New York is opposed to fair elections.
Since 1936, a party qualified for a line on every ballot in New York for the next four years by receiving 50,000 votes for their ticket for governor and lieutenant governor. The Green Party of New York qualified for the ballot in the last three gubernatorial elections. With a party ballot line, the petitioning requirements for party candidates are a small fraction of the signatures an independent candidate without a party line must get.
Now the Democratic Party of New York has passed a law that could knock the Green Party off the ballot. The new law makes these changes:
- A party must qualify every two years instead of every four years with the vote for their gubernatorial and presidential tickets.
- The vote to qualify increases about two and half times. The vote must be 135,000 or 2%, which every is greater. In the 2020 presidential election, this will probably mean a vote of upwards of 175,000.
- If a party loses its ballot line, the number of signatures it must get in the six-week independent candidates petitioning period to qualify a gubernatorial or presidential ticket triples from 15,000 to 45,000.
This new law makes ballot qualification in New York one of the most difficult of any state in the nation. The only times the Green Party has received more than 175,000 votes have been with Ralph Nader for president in 2000 and when I was the gubernatorial candidate in 2014.
The new law was made by a commission charged by the state legislature to write a public campaign finance law. Instead of debating public campaign finance in the legislature, they authorized the commission to write the law.
The commission was dominated by appointees by the Democratic governor and leaders of the assembly and senate. The public campaign finance system the commission adopted is grossly inequitable. It is a matching funds system that simply adds public money on top of unrestricted private money in a way that mulitplies the funding advantages of the candidates with the most private funding.
The commission was told by the Democratic leaders who appointed them to kill third parties while they were at it even though it was not in the legislature’s original mandate to the commission. The Democrats’ excuse is that they don’t want the public campaign finance system to give money to “sham” parties like the Green Party.
Some Democrats who were elected with the cross-endorsement of the Working Families Party have said they don’t like the law. But there is no move by any Democratic back benchers in the state legislature to challenge their leaders and fight to change his anti-democratic law.
Whether or not the Green Party’s lawsuit succeeds in overturning the new ballot access law, the Green Party of New York is not going away. The Democrats’ actions here just give Greens more motivation to build a political alternative to win the elected offices the Democrats now hold.