WFP & Conservative Party Seek Injunction Against NYS Board of Elections Discriminatory Practice

October 1, 2010

Minor Parties Seek Emergency Relief To Get Votes They’ve Earned This Election

NEW YORK- The Working Families Party and the Conservative Party --  represented by the Brennan Center for Justice and the law firm of Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady – asked U.S. District Court Judge Jed Rakoff today to grant a preliminary injunction barring the State Board of Elections from enforcing New York’s discriminatory “double voting” policy in the upcoming November election. Double voting results when the machine determines that a voter has selected the same candidate in the same contest on more than one party line. Under the state’s policy, the vote will go the “first” party on the ballot, almost invariably the Democrats or the Republicans, to the detriment of minor political parties such as Plaintiffs.  

 “New York’s double voting policy hands votes to the major political parties at the expense of minor parties,” said Mike Long, Executive Director of the Conservative Party. “Our voters have the right to stand up and be counted just like the others,” added Dan Cantor, Executive Director of the Working Families Party. 

New York’s “fusion” voting system allows for the same candidate to run on both a major party as well as a minor party line. This allows voters to vote for a major party candidate while supporting a minor party. With the lever machines used in New York until this year, voters could not vote for the same candidate on both major and minor party lines.  With the new system, voters can “double-vote” in this way, without any warning that their vote will only count for the major party and without any opportunity to correct their ballot.

The issue is of particular importance to minor parties in New York, given that the results of the gubernatorial election are used to determine a party’s placement on the ballot for the next four years. Only parties who receive at least 50,000 votes are entitled to a guaranteed place on the ballot, and the order of their appearance is based on the number of votes that they previously received.

“This policy is unconscionable and blatantly unconstitutional,” Eric Hecker, partner at Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady, said.  “The law should not allow for the state to favor major parties at the expense of minor parties,” added Wendy Weiser, Director of the Voting Rights Project at the Brennan Center. 

“When a voter has unambiguously expressed her intent to support both a major party and a minor party, the State cannot simply ignore the minor party and, without informing the voter, blindly credit the vote to the major party,” the complaint read.

“This is a problem that needs to be corrected,” said Lawrence Norden, senior counsel at the Brennan Center. “Voters have the right to know which party is getting their vote when they fill out their ballot.”

This action follows on the heels of another lawsuit filed by the Brennan Center on behalf of the NAACP and other civil rights organizations, challenging New York State’s policy of handling overvotes, which will potentially cause tens of thousands of votes to be discarded.

More information on the lawsuit, including a copy of the complaint, click here.  For more information or to set up interviews, please contact Eric Koch at eric@berlinrosen.com or at 646-452-5637.

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