ALBANY — The state Board of Elections has rejected Republican Lee Zeldin’s bid to gain an extra ballot line in the governor’s race by reviving the old Independence Party line.
New York is among the few states that allow candidates to appear on the ballot multiple times under the backing of different parties.
Zeldin, along with the entire Republican ticket, had submitted about 52,000 petition signatures to run as Independence Party candidates, which would have been about 7,000 more than they needed to qualify.
But the board, following up on an assertion that thousands of signatures were merely photocopied duplicates, threw out nearly 13,000 signatures — leaving Zeldin shy of the 45,000 minimum.
In a ruling first reported by Newsday, the elections board said: “12,868 were found to be invalid, leaving 39,228 valid signatures … The petition does not contain the requisite number of signatures, and is invalid.”
The Zeldin petition were challenged not by Democrats but by the Libertarian Party.
“Republicans talk a lot about election integrity, but the Zeldin campaign attempted to fly under the radar and submit over 11,000 fraudulent signatures in an attempt to get a third line on the ballot,” Andrew Kolstee, the Libertarian Party secretary, said in a statement.
In an interview, Kolstee told Newsday the party has a lawsuit challenging the 45,000-signature threshold for third parties as too onerous for candidates.
Challenging the Zeldin petitions was a way to show that even candidates with major-party backing are hard pressed to reach it, Kolstee said.
Zeldin spokeswoman Katie Vincentz said in an email: "Being nearly an entirely grassroots effort, we haven't reviewed all of the petitions nor the specific objections associated with them. In the final few days leading up to the filing deadline, tens of thousands of signatures from all over the state had to be immediately turned into the Board of Elections."
During the administration of former Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, New York in 2019 raised the requirements for minor parties to qualify for a ballot line.
Parties had to garner at least 130,000 votes or 2% of the total vote in either the gubernatorial or presidential elections.
The Independence and Libertarian parties failed to meet the requirement in 2020.
Without an automatic line, a party has to gather 45,000 signatures — instead of just 5,000 — to get on a statewide ballot.