For Immediate Release
May 30, 2003
Amanda Cooper, 212 998–6736
Laura Weiner, 212 992–8631
Brennan Center Statement on Decision in Green Party of NYS v. NYS Board of Elections
Court Affirms Voters Right to Register in Green Party through 2006 Election
Court Finds New Yorks Voter Enrollment Scheme Places the Most Severe Restriction on Enrollment for Parties not Entitled to Their Own Primary of any State
Today, U.S. District Judge John Gleeson issued a preliminary injunction in Green Party of NYS v. NYS Board of Elections. The Courts ordered requires New York State to revise its voter registration application to allow voters to continue to register in the Green Party through at least the 2006 gubernatorial election, and requires county boards of election to maintain and record new voters Green Party affiliation preference. The Brennan Center, counsel for the Green Party of New York State and several of its members, filed the suit in December to preserve the right of party members to officially enroll as Green Party members, and retain their party affiliation in registration records, even though the Green Party lost its ballot status in last years gubernatorial election. This ruling is a major victory for the voters of New York State. Other courts have struck down as unconstitutional New York laws designed to limit the ability of insurgent candidates and parties to get on the ballot and thereby severely limit voters choices. Similarly, the Court here found that New Yorks voter enrollment scheme places the most severe restriction on voters of any of the states in the country that do not allow open primaries. This decision gives New Yorkers what residents of many states already have, namely the right to enroll not just in the major parties, but also in the Green Party, an organized party with a track record of significant support and activities. The decision vindicates voters rights under the First Amendment to associate as members of a party and express their voices fully and equally, and the rights of minor parties to organize and build support on a level playing field with the major parties, said Jeremy Creelan, associate counsel at the Brennan Center and the attorney for the plaintiffs.
If the court had not intervened, the party affiliation status of these voters would have been switched to blank and new registrants would not have been allowed to register as a Green Party member on the registration application. State law required the Board to decertify the Greens as a political party because its gubernatorial candidate, Stanley Aronowitz, failed to receive at least 50,000 votes.
The Greens sought the injunction to block two critical corollaries to the Greens loss of official party status, namely the purging of existing voter enrollment information from county board of elections records and the loss of the right to enroll voters as Green Party members upon registration. If the State no longer registered voters as members of the Green Party, the Party would have lost a crucial tool for effective outreach and organizing, and voters would have lost their opportunity to express their political views through identification with a particular party and its platformconstitutional rights protected by the First and Fourteenth Amendments.
The Courts decision also encourages the New York State Board of Elections and the Legislature to consider broader changes to the states voter enrollment scheme to allow voters to enroll not just in the Green Party, but in any party that has shown a sufficient modicum of past support by, for example, successfully placing a candidate on the ballot in the most recent statewide election. Such changes would further vindicate voters rights to express themselves through party enrollment and parties rights to use voter registration to organize and build their membership and support.
For more information, please contact Amanda Cooper at the Brennan Center for Justice at 212.998.6736.
The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law unites thinkers and advocates in pursuit of a vision of inclusive and effective democracy. Our mission is to develop and implement an innovative, nonpartisan agenda of scholarship, public education, and legal action that promotes equality and human dignity, while safeguarding fundamental freedoms.