Looks like New York politics will be even wackier for the next four years.
Because they each reached the fifty-thousand vote threshold in this past gubernatorial election, three new political parties will achieve “ballot status”. Joining the Republican, Democratic, Conservative, Independence and Working Families parties will be the Green Party, the Stop Common Core Party and the Women’s Equality Party.
So for those counting, New York now has EIGHT political parties with ballot access. But voters are left with few real choices thanks to a quirk in New York’s election law that allows candidates to appear on multiple ballot lines at the same time.
Created by Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino to draw some cross-over appeal, the Stop Common Core ballot line attracted many voters who oppose the controversial curriculum. Created for the purposes of the campaign only, there is little known as to whether the party will be sustainable with a working framework and infrastructure.
The Women’s Equality Party (WEP) claims to be “an answer to the assaults on the basic rights of women and our lack of progress here in New York towards passing the full 10-point Women’s Equality Act” that was championed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and former New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn. The move was seen largely as Cuomo’s attempt to freeze out the Working Families Party, who begrudgingly endorsed Cuomo after a very public conflict. The New York Post reported continuing angst emanating from the WFP during the campaign towards the WEP:
“A Women’s Equality Party run by men? Please!” WFP co-founder Bertha Lewis told The Post. “The Women’s Equality Party is unnecessary. I don’t like it. It’s cynical.”
WFP co-chairperson Karen Scharff also ripped the women’s party.
“Women are actually the vast majority of voters in New York state, and I don’t think we should be pigeonholed in a separate party,” Scharff said on “Capitol Tonight,” an upstate cable-TV news show. “Women should be voting on the WFP line.”
Said another WFP insider: “The Women’s Equality Party is Cuomo’s F U to the WFP.”
The only “real” party to gain ballot status with its own independent candidate was the Green Party, who re-gained its place thanks to a strong showing from its gubernatorial candidate, Howie Hawkins. Apparently, left-leaning Democratic voters upset with Cuomo, mainly over his perpetual waffling over hydrofracking, formed the base of support for Hawkins, who received 5% of the vote.
The Green Party was the only new political party that didn’t cross-endorse a mainstream party candidate, which is allowed under New York’s “fusion” voting scheme created by a curious law commonly referred to in the state as the “Wilson-Pakula” law. Under this scheme, political parties can grant a non-party candidate their ballot line so candidates can garner multiple ballot lines. That is why Andrew Cuomo’s name appeared as a candidate for the Democratic, Independence (not to be confused with being “independent”!) Working Families and Women’s Equality lines, while Astorino appeared on the Republican, Conservative and Stop Common Core Lines. Additional ballot lines attract voters loathe to cross party lines and allow them to cast their vote based on an issue instead of party.
The downside of fusion balloting is significant. First, incumbents benefit because these minor parties are more likely than not to give a ballot line out to an incumbent that can fund their operation for a political cycle based solely on their need to survive. For example, the Independence Party has been known to endorse Republicans State Senators and Democratic Members of the State Assembly because they hold their respective majority. Another major negative has been the creation of a vampiric political class who suck the out the strength of the mainstream party’s power and influence, becoming the proverbial tail that wags the dog. For example, New York’s Republican party can gain little traction in and of itself without appeasing the political desires of the NY Conservative party, who often threaten to split tickets and play spoiler if their terrorist-like demands of respect and patronage are not met. Another disturbing trend is that minor parties can be easily co-opted in smaller locales by interest groups that have little to do with the political persuasion that the label brings. For example, in upstate Schenectady County, policemen and firefighters have taken over minor parties to hold greater influence for their own self-interest rather than party values.
Looks like the Board of Elections better start handing out programs and scorecards instead of ballots for the next four years so that voters can keep track of all of these political shenanigans.