Cornel West, right, speaks at the National Press Club on...

Cornel West, right, speaks at the National Press Club on Feb. 21, 2017, in Washington, D.C. Independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. speaks to supporters during an event in Los Angeles on March 30. Credit: Getty Images/AP/Win McNamee/Richard Vogel

WASHINGTON — With New York’s presidential primary for Democrats and Republicans complete, independent and third-party presidential candidates, including activist Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and scholar Cornel West, are gearing up to qualify for the general election ballot.

Candidates can start collecting signatures from registered voters statewide on April 16, and have until May 28 to return their petitions to the New York State Board of Elections, according to state election law.

The campaigns of Kennedy and West — two of the most visible independents running as an alternative to Democrat Joe Biden and Republican Donald Trump — say they have been laying the groundwork for weeks to collect the 45,000 signatures needed to qualify for the ballot.

Kennedy’s campaign, in a statement to Newsday, said its “ballot access team has designated New York as a priority due to the state imposing a six-week window in which we have to collect 45,000 valid signatures.”

“The New York organizing effort has been ongoing for months in anticipation of our petition drive,” the campaign said. “We have thousands of volunteers across the state who are being trained and stepping up for this historic effort.”

West’s co-campaign manager, Edwin DeJesus, told Newsday in a phone interview that “New York is one of our most well-organized states in terms of volunteer” participation.

“New York is bustling with activity,” DeJesus said, noting that the campaign sent guides to volunteers advising them of all the requirements for getting on the ballot.

DeJesus said the campaign is hoping to collect double the required amount to account for the possibility of signatures being contested or invalidated by the state board of elections.

The Green Party of New York, which is backing environmental activist Jill Stein, said on its website that it has a goal to collect at least 60,000 signatures with a minimum of 750 signatures from 13 congressional districts in the state.

An overhaul to state election law in 2020, led by then-Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, made it harder for independents and third parties to qualify for state ballots.

Candidates must now collect 45,000 signatures — three times the previous amount — or 1% of votes cast in the most recent gubernatorial race, excluding blank and void ballots, whichever is less. Based on the 2022 governor’s race, in which there were more than 5 million votes cast, the 45,000 signatures is the lesser value that is being used to qualify this year.

Under the 2020 changes to the law, 500 of those signatures must come from each of half of the state’s 26 congressional districts.

Qualifying requirements also increased for third parties under the 2020 changes. Minor political parties such as the Green and Working Families parties previously needed to earn 50,000 votes in the previous election cycle to qualify for the ballot. But the 2020 overhaul increased the requirement to 130,000 votes or 2% of votes cast. In 2020, the Green Party and Libertarian parties did not qualify for the ballot, but the Conservative and Working Families did.

The Green and Libertarian parties sued New York in federal court, looking for the law to be struck down, but the U.S. Supreme Court last October said it would not hear the case, writing in a court brief that the “threshold increases are not severely burdensome because they remain at or under 2%.”

“New York State only has four official parties — Democratic, Republican, Conservatives, and Working Families,” New York Board of Elections spokeswoman Kathleen R. McGrath wrote in an email. “Anyone seeking ballot access on a line other than those four parties would be an independent candidate.”

The race to get on the November ballot comes as national polls show an increasingly tight race between Biden and Trump. Trump has an average 1.1% edge over Biden in national polls conducted between March 7 and April 3, according to the poll tracking website Real Clear Politics.

Political analysts say it’s still unclear which of the major party candidates stands to gain or lose more by the presence of third-party contenders. But they noted that third-party votes have the potential to sway an election, particularly in battleground states where Biden and Trump are in a statistical dead heat.

Farmingdale State College political science professor Christopher Malone said the controversial 2000 election between Democrat Al Gore and Republican George W. Bush ultimately came down to a difference of 538 votes in Florida. Green Party candidate Ralph Nader garnered 97,000 votes in the state, which some argued would have gone to Gore.

“Anything can happen in those swing states,” said Malone, who also serves as an associate provost at the school. “These third parties could really change the outcome of the election.”

A recent Quinnipiac Poll highlighted the potential impact of the third-party field. In a head-to-head matchup, Biden had a three-point edge over Trump among 1,407 voters polled March 21-25, but in a five-way race that includes Kennedy, Stein and West, Biden trails Trump by one point. The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 2.4 percentage points.

Kennedy led the minor party candidates, receiving 13% support. Stein received 4% and West received 3%.

WASHINGTON — With New York’s presidential primary for Democrats and Republicans complete, independent and third-party presidential candidates, including activist Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and scholar Cornel West, are gearing up to qualify for the general election ballot.

Candidates can start collecting signatures from registered voters statewide on April 16, and have until May 28 to return their petitions to the New York State Board of Elections, according to state election law.

The campaigns of Kennedy and West — two of the most visible independents running as an alternative to Democrat Joe Biden and Republican Donald Trump — say they have been laying the groundwork for weeks to collect the 45,000 signatures needed to qualify for the ballot.

Kennedy’s campaign, in a statement to Newsday, said its “ballot access team has designated New York as a priority due to the state imposing a six-week window in which we have to collect 45,000 valid signatures.”

“The New York organizing effort has been ongoing for months in anticipation of our petition drive,” the campaign said. “We have thousands of volunteers across the state who are being trained and stepping up for this historic effort.”

West’s co-campaign manager, Edwin DeJesus, told Newsday in a phone interview that “New York is one of our most well-organized states in terms of volunteer” participation.

“New York is bustling with activity,” DeJesus said, noting that the campaign sent guides to volunteers advising them of all the requirements for getting on the ballot.

DeJesus said the campaign is hoping to collect double the required amount to account for the possibility of signatures being contested or invalidated by the state board of elections.

The Green Party of New York, which is backing environmental activist Jill Stein, said on its website that it has a goal to collect at least 60,000 signatures with a minimum of 750 signatures from 13 congressional districts in the state.

Tougher qualifying requirements

An overhaul to state election law in 2020, led by then-Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, made it harder for independents and third parties to qualify for state ballots.

Candidates must now collect 45,000 signatures — three times the previous amount — or 1% of votes cast in the most recent gubernatorial race, excluding blank and void ballots, whichever is less. Based on the 2022 governor’s race, in which there were more than 5 million votes cast, the 45,000 signatures is the lesser value that is being used to qualify this year.

Under the 2020 changes to the law, 500 of those signatures must come from each of half of the state’s 26 congressional districts.

Qualifying requirements also increased for third parties under the 2020 changes. Minor political parties such as the Green and Working Families parties previously needed to earn 50,000 votes in the previous election cycle to qualify for the ballot. But the 2020 overhaul increased the requirement to 130,000 votes or 2% of votes cast. In 2020, the Green Party and Libertarian parties did not qualify for the ballot, but the Conservative and Working Families did.

The Green and Libertarian parties sued New York in federal court, looking for the law to be struck down, but the U.S. Supreme Court last October said it would not hear the case, writing in a court brief that the “threshold increases are not severely burdensome because they remain at or under 2%.”

“New York State only has four official parties — Democratic, Republican, Conservatives, and Working Families,” New York Board of Elections spokeswoman Kathleen R. McGrath wrote in an email. “Anyone seeking ballot access on a line other than those four parties would be an independent candidate.”

The race to get on the November ballot comes as national polls show an increasingly tight race between Biden and Trump. Trump has an average 1.1% edge over Biden in national polls conducted between March 7 and April 3, according to the poll tracking website Real Clear Politics.

Impact in November

Political analysts say it’s still unclear which of the major party candidates stands to gain or lose more by the presence of third-party contenders. But they noted that third-party votes have the potential to sway an election, particularly in battleground states where Biden and Trump are in a statistical dead heat.

Farmingdale State College political science professor Christopher Malone said the controversial 2000 election between Democrat Al Gore and Republican George W. Bush ultimately came down to a difference of 538 votes in Florida. Green Party candidate Ralph Nader garnered 97,000 votes in the state, which some argued would have gone to Gore.

“Anything can happen in those swing states,” said Malone, who also serves as an associate provost at the school. “These third parties could really change the outcome of the election.”

A recent Quinnipiac Poll highlighted the potential impact of the third-party field. In a head-to-head matchup, Biden had a three-point edge over Trump among 1,407 voters polled March 21-25, but in a five-way race that includes Kennedy, Stein and West, Biden trails Trump by one point. The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 2.4 percentage points.

Kennedy led the minor party candidates, receiving 13% support. Stein received 4% and West received 3%.

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