The Working Families Party of New York State and its state committee, New York state legislators, and registered voters have filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York challenging new, heightened requirements for gaining a line on the ballot. Those requirements were passed in the same budget law that established a voluntary public financing program for statewide and legislative elections. The Brennan Center for Justice filed an amicus brief in support of no party urging the court to sever the ballot access requirements from the rest of the law if it invalidates them and preserve the transformative public financing program.
This year’s New York State budget enacted a long-awaited program of public financing for New York statewide and legislative elections. This groundbreaking reform will help restore New York state’s broken democracy by increasing the importance of small donors in elections. It represents the most significant step taken by any state to counter the rising influence of money in politics since the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision and could be a model for reform across the nation.
That law also included the provisions challenged here – heightened thresholds that minor parties must meet to receive an automatic line on the ballot. Because the law also contains language purporting to require the entire package to fall if any component is invalidated, a successful challenge to the ballot access requirements could leave the public financing program at stake.
The Brennan Center’s amicus brief shows why the public financing program should stand even if the court strikes the new ballot access provisions. The court must examine the purpose of the law and whether it can operate without the invalidated portions. Both factors favor upholding the public financing program. The law’s stated aim was to establish a campaign finance reform that would strengthen and diversify the state’s democracy, not to make it harder to access the ballot. And, as the Brennan Center’s research shows, the heightened thresholds have no effect on the operation of the public financing program, including on program costs, compared to the state’s previous ballot qualification thresholds. The program can, and should, survive – the people of New York are depending on it.
United States District Court, Southern District of New York
- Plaintiffs' Complaint (May 29, 2020)
- Plaintiffs' Memorandum of Law in Support of their Motion for a Preliminary Injunction (May 29, 2020)
- Defendants' Memorandum of Law in Opposition to Plaintiffs' Motions for Preliminary Injunctions (July 2, 2020)
- Amicus Brief of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo in Opposition to Plaintiffs' Motions for Preliminary Injunctions (July 2, 2020)
- Amicus Brief of the Brennan Center for Justice in Support of No Party (July 3, 2020)
- Brennan Center Analysis of Minor Party Cost to Public Financing Programs (January 15, 2020)