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Judge: Minor Parties Fail to Justify Hold on New Ballot Rule

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A federal judge says minor political parties in New York have failed to make their case that the state violated their constitutional rights by making it harder to qualify as parties and get on the ballot in upcoming elections.

The state's new ballot qualification requirements will take effect for now under District Judge John Koetl's Tuesday decision, which is the latest development in an ongoing legal battle

Political parties must now receive 2% of the vote — or 130,000 votes— in the previous presidential or gubernatorial election. A state court judge's decision earlier this year put a hold on the change, which took effect Jan. 1.

A political party’s status will now be reviewed every other year starting in November. Previously, political parties had to re-qualify every four years by receiving over 50,000 votes in the gubernatorial election.

Third parties including the Working Families Party argued the law violated their rights to free association, equal protection and due process in their lawsuit against the state Board of Election and state election commissioners.

The minor parties argued that the law was a flagrant and unjustified attempt to limit ballot access ahead of a new public campaign funding system set to launch in New York in 2024.

But the judge said the political parties failed to show they'd be harmed by the new law.

“It is far from certain that the WFP will fail to achieve the required number of votes,” the judge wrote, in reference to the Working Families Party. “But, even if the WFP did fail to meet that threshold, the WFP could pursue relief at that time.”

Legislative leaders and Gov. Andrew Cuomo had appointed a commission to set up the public matching program with a $100 million budget.

The commission's recommendations — including requirements to make it harder to get on the ballot — became state law at the beginning of the year. A state court judge ruled that lawmakers improperly delegated authority to the commission in a March 12 decision that said the commission's recommendations lacked the force of law.

Judge Koetl said the minor parties have failed to prove that courts need to block the law, which he called the result of a “reasonable, nondiscriminatory compromise in furtherance of valid interests.”

“While the party qualification threshold and party qualification method may result in burdens and practical difficulties for both sets of plaintiffs, these burdens are outweighed by New York state’s important regulatory interests,” the judge wrote.

The judge noted that New York's party qualification threshold had remained at 50,000 votes for 85 years, even as the electorate increased from five million in 1935 to nearly 13 million as of February.

A spokesperson for the governor said his administration is reviewing the decision. An email seeking comment was sent to a pokesperson for the Working Families Party on Tuesday.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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