Unlike most other states in the nation, New York has given official status to “third” parties for over a century.
What’s more, the state’s election laws allow those parties to “cross-endorse” candidates (a/k/a Fusion voting) of the Republican and Democratic Parties, meaning that two or more parties can nominate the same candidate and that the votes cast on each of those lines are added together.
New York’s rules permit any individual who can obtain at least 20,000 valid signatures of registered voters with any party affiliation to establish an independent party. If in a subsequent gubernatorial election that independent party’s candidate receives at least 50,000 votes, the party is officially recognized and automatically receives a spot on the ballot in every election for the next four years.
In the 20th century, New York third parties began to gain status during the Depression years. The American Labor Party (ALP) was founded with the approval of President Franklin Roosevelt in 1936. Roosevelt believed he would pick up votes on this line of extreme left-wingers, socialists, and progressive Republicans who could not bring themselves to vote on the line of the corrupt “Tammany Hall controlled” Democratic Party.
After the Communists took over the ALP in 1954, labor union leaders pulled out and founded the New York State Liberal Party.
Then, in 1962, to counter the Liberal Party and to oppose the rise of Gov. Nelson Rockefeller’s liberal Republicanism, J. Daniel Mahoney and Kiernan O’Doherty, with the blessing of William F. Buckley Jr., founded the New York State Conservative Party.
Over the years, both parties provided the margin of victory for candidates they endorsed, as well as the margin of defeat for major party candidates who shunned them.
For instance, in 1961, the Liberal Party provided the margin of victory for John F. Kennedy. He outpolled Nixon by 384,000 votes thanks to the 406,176 votes he received on the Liberal Party line.
Similarly, in 1994, George Pataki beat Gov. Mario Cuomo by about 200,000 votes due to the 328,000 votes cast for him on the Conservative Party Line.
In 2006, the Liberal Party went out of business when its gubernatorial candidate, Andrew Cuomo, failed to receive the minimum 50,000 votes.
In its stead, the Working Families Party is now the voice of the far left’s political agenda. Its voting power is second only to the Conservative Party.
Oddly, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who accepted the WFP nomination in his 2006 race for state Attorney General and his three races for governor, and in 2014 created his own minor party, the Women’s Equality Party, is now opposed to cross-endorsements.
Most political wags believe the governor is driven solely by spite because the WFP tortured him politically in 2014 and 2018 by first promoting candidates against him and later making him beg for the endorsements.
To eliminate fusion voting, Cuomo has established another commission, stacked with political cronies. The commission, the New York Times has written, “must write a report with its proposed changes by Dec. 1. Those proposals would become law unless they are modified by state lawmakers within 20 days.”
Fortunately, for all New Yorkers, Conservative Party and WFP leaders have each filed suits to stop the governor’s crass political move.
Conservative Party State Chairman Gerard Kassar, rightfully pointed out that the governor’s sham commission is “attempting to shut down political dissent.”
“Fusion voting,” Kassar said, “permits candidates to run on more than one ballot line, allowing voters to cast nuanced votes by supporting chosen candidates on ballot lines with which they most ideologically agree.”
As a member of the Conservative Party, its 1993 N.Y. City mayoral candidate, and the author of “Fighting the Good Fight: A History of the N.Y. Conservative Party,” I am certainly biased in this matter.
Hence, I’m pleased the Conservative Party and WFP are fighting to stop Cuomo’s end-run around the state constitutionally held-up practice of fusion voting.
It is my hope they prevail because voters need minor parties to register their anger and frustration at major party pols who stand for nothing more than maintaining power for its own sake.