New York Ballot Access: Kennedy Challenges the Democrat Death Grip on the Empire State

New York Ballot Access: Kennedy Challenges the Democrat Death Grip on the Empire State
American Values 2024 | May 7, 2024

By Leah Watson, The Kennedy Beacon

Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who is registered to vote in New York, has started his ballot access push in the state, possibly the most difficult in the nation for an independent candidate to get on the ballot

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New York has the smallest window for collecting signatures of any state — 42 days, from April 16 to May 28. During that time span, a candidate must collect and submit 45,000 verifiable signatures.

As of May 1, Kennedy had already collected this minimum required number. He plans to collect more than double that number in the coming three weeks, in case his petition is challenged.

“We have 1,000 volunteers working here in New York… I’m so grateful,” Kennedy said. “We have them in all 63 counties.”

Once filed, individual signatures can be challenged by an opposing party; each name must have the correct street address and county – if in New York City and, elsewhere, the town or city (not hamlet or village) as per the voter’s registration, which may be different from the voter’s mailing address. If any inconsistencies are found, the signature can be disqualified.

Due to such challenges, a candidate realistically needs to submit over double the minimum number of signatures as a buffer in order to qualify for the ballot in New York.

In 2020, during the COVID-19 lockdown, then-governor Andrew Cuomo slipped new rules into the emergency COVID budget that tripled the number of signatures independent candidates have to file in order to qualify for the ballot. Previously, only 15,000 valid signatures were required for independent presidential and gubernatorial candidates to obtain ballot access, but in 2020, this number jumped to 45,000 signatures. The new rule also requires existing third parties to receive 2% of the vote in presidential elections to retain the ballot line.

In 2020, the newly formed Serve America Movement (SAM) party of New York immediately filed a lawsuit against Cuomo but did not prevail. The Libertarian and Green Parties both lost their hard-won ballot lines in 2020 in New York, due to the new requirements. Together they filed a lawsuit against the Governor, as reported by Reason, but the US Supreme Court refused to hear the case.

Larry Sharpe, Director of National Organizing for American Values 2024 [which funds The Kennedy Beacon], had secured ballot access for the Libertarian Party in 2018 as a candidate for governor of New York. According to the ballot rules at the time, Sharpe expected to have ballot access to run again for governor in 2022. He filed a lawsuit against the New York State Board of Elections after he came up just a few hundred signatures short of the new requirement. He and other Libertarians in the suit claimed the inflated minimum “impose[d] an onerous burden upon and effectively abridge[d] their rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments.”

The court upheld the new requirement. In a New York Times article, Sharpe noted, “We have a situation now where the only people who would ever want to run for office are those who are already in office.”

Although the Working Families party and the Conservative party are both still on the ballot in New York, for the presidential and gubernatorial races, they are forced to run Democrat and Republican candidates, respectively (through fusion voting) in order to maintain their ballot lines by getting at least 2% of the vote.

According to Ballot Access News, Kennedy’s New York petition (if successful) will create a new party, the We the People party, that will have a ballot line for the next election. As long as the presidential candidate and gubernatorial candidates for the party get 2% of the vote on those two-year cycles, We the People will keep the ballot line.

As Kennedy gains ballot access for his own campaign throughout the 50 states, as previously reported on The Kennedy Beacon, he is also creating more opportunities for other third-party and independent candidates. The addition of a We the People ballot line will be an especially important win for New Yorkers who have been denied choices beyond the Uniparty.

New York voters may be growing tired of Democrat leaders. In addition to his election law changes in 2020, Cuomo is also responsible for implementing extensive lockdown protocols such as closing businesses and schools. A study reported in the New York Post revealed that New York had the most severe lockdowns out of all 50 states and the District of Columbia and was “among the worst scorers in health, economic and education outcomes: 47 out of 51 for health, 48 for economic and 31 for education outcomes.” As a result, “over the two pandemic years, New York lost 651,742 residents” who moved out of state, causing New York to lose one of its congressional districts.

On April 28, Kennedy spoke at a New York State campaign event urging supporters to petition for him to get on the ballot.

“This is my state. This is where I vote,” said Kennedy. “It’s very important to me to get on the ballot here in New York.”

New York holds sentimental value for Kennedy, as it is the home of one of his greatest environmental successes. During more than three decades with the Riverkeeper Alliance, Kennedy worked to restore the Hudson River, fighting against its biggest industrial polluters. Kennedy also attended Pace University of Law in New York and later became a clinical professor at Pace’s School of Law’s Environmental Litigation Clinic for 34 years.

At the end of the event, and as a registered voter in New York, Kennedy signed his own petition to get on the ballot, adding to the excitement of supporters in the audience.

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