Rep. Lee Zeldin's failed to secure the Independence Party line for...

 Rep. Lee Zeldin's failed to secure the Independence Party line for his gubernatorial campaign  because nearly 13,000 petition signatures were photocopied duplicates. Credit: Morgan Campbell

When news broke that Rep. Lee Zeldin’s attempt to secure the Independence Party line for his gubernatorial campaign was rejected because nearly 13,000 of the 52,000 petition signatures were photocopied duplicates, the irony was strong. 

The signatures were collected to secure the line for all of the Republican Party’s statewide candidates. But it's Zeldin facing a backlash — because he’s at the top of the ticket, because he joined an amicus brief encouraging the Supreme Court to nullify President Joe Biden’s win, and because he voted against certifying the election results of Arizona and Pennsylvania on Jan. 6.

The backlash is deserved. Submitting thousands of photocopied duplicate signatures on sheets interspersed through a huge stack of non-photocopied pages is irresponsible and repugnant.

There has been no evidence that Zeldin’s concerns about fraud occurring at an impactful level in 2020 are justified. There is evidence that fraud within Zeldin’s campaign was attempted.

The claim of Zeldin campaign spokeswoman Katie Vincentz that the mix-up occurred because Zeldin is running “nearly entirely a grassroots effort” is a poor fit. Zeldin spent $11 million to secure the nomination, much of it on advertising and professional services. His data operation and campaign organization are polished and pricey.

Vincentz’s failure to answer detailed questions only invites more cynicism. 

Now voters can decide how much they care about shady (but not terribly rare) political machinations by the GOP intended to secure a third ballot line, to go along with the GOP and Conservative ones, for Zeldin and his party-mates contending for statewide election. And about how much Zeldin’s moves on the Biden election color that decision.

But the broader issue of how third-party ballot lines are now accessed in New York is equally worrisome.

In 2019, New York raised dramatically the thresholds for ballot access. Parties went from needing 50,000 votes in only gubernatorial races to earn automatic access to needing 130,000 in every presidential and gubernatorial race. 

And candidates seeking a line from a party without automatic access went from needing 5,000 signatures to needing 45,000.

This might be justifiable if the state had banned fusion voting, which allows one candidate to appear on more than one line, and is the root of much electoral evil in New York, one of the few states that allows it. But because it did not, the only minor-party candidates in statewide elections will be Republicans, on the Conservative line, and Democrats, on the Working Families Party line.

The Conservatives kept their line by running Donald Trump for president in 2020. The WFP did so by running Biden. 

No minor party trying to run its own candidates, and advance its own ideology, earned ballot access for the 2022 gubernatorial race, automatically or by petition.

That means two parties that have had significant impacts on New York political ideology failed to make the ballot. The Green Party, under which candidate Howie Hawkins helped bring once-niche policies on climate change, minimum wage and the social safety net into the mainstream, is stymied. So, too, is the Libertarian Party, which battled for legalized marijuana and gambling long before any major party.

Making it nearly impossible to bring new ideas and parties to the fore now, when the old ideas and parties seem to be failing us so very badly, is a crying shame. The GOP’s attempt to unfairly gain an additional line for Zeldin and his ticket-mates only makes that clearer.

Columnist Lane Filler's opinions are his own.

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