NEW YORK LIBERTARIAN PARTY WINS IMPORTANT BALLOT ACCESS LAWSUIT
ELECTION LAW RULE THAT PROHIBITED SAME INDEPENDENT CANDIDATE FROM APPEARING ON TWO LINES RULED UNCONSTITUTIONAL
On June 19, the New York Libertarian Party (LPNY) won its three-year old lawsuit against the State Board of Elections when the US District Court held a portion of the State Election Law that prohibited an independent candidate from running for office as the candidate of two independent bodies to be an unconstitutional denial of the Equal Protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
New York is a fusion state which allows candidates to be cross-endorsed by recognized parties, but not by two independent bodies like the Libertarian Party. Now, that double-standard has been eliminated.
In 2010, both the Libertarian Party and the Anti-Prohibition Party (APP), two unofficial bodies under New York election law, nominated Randy Credico as their US Senate candidate. Credico submitted over 15,000 valid petition signatures for each line and qualified to be listed as the candidate of each of them, but instead the State Board of Elections demanded that he choose only one line, which he refused to do.
At the same time, Charles Schumer was listed as the candidate of the Democrat, Independence and Working Families parties and Jay Townsend was the candidate of both the Republican and Conservative parties.
Because Credico refused to choose one line over the other, he was listed only in the Libertarian Party column and received 24,863 votes. The space for his name on the ballot in the APP column was intentionally left blank.
Credico and others sued the State Board of Elections in federal court. One of his supporters testified that he wanted to vote for Credico, but not as a Libertarian. As a result, he was denied his choice to vote for Credico on the APP line, for which he had qualified.
After three years of litigation, US Magistrate Judge Cheryl Pollak held that the applicable Election Law provision was unconstitutional as applied to the LPNY and the statute must be stricken as facially discriminatory.
Mark Axinn, LPNY Chair and a plaintiff in the action, stated, “This is a terrific victory for all independent candidates and especially for Libertarians as we are out there every year seeking to bring our message of freedom and peace to the voters. Now we can garner maximum exposure for our candidates.”
Richard Winger, editor of Ballot Access News, noted that the court ruling is a valuable precedent because the court held that no state interest exists for the discriminatory law, and that it must be invalidated even if the burden on the Libertarian Party and its voters is not severe.
The Board of Elections has advised that it will not appeal the 45-page decision of the US Magistrate Judge. Plaintiffs Credico, Axinn and others were represented by LPNY attorney Gary Donoyan and the late Leonard Weinglass, who was one of the defense attorneys in the famous Chicago 7 trial in 1969.