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A stark example of the trouble with multiple-party candidates

New York's new commission on electoral reform should look at the June 25 primaries in Suffolk County

A view of voting booths during primary election

A view of voting booths during primary election voting in New York on Sept. 13, 2018. Photo Credit: EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock/Justin Lane

A special commission appointed by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and the State Legislature to reform New York’s electoral process will review the practice of candidates running on multiple party lines on the ballot, and establish criteria for public campaign financing.

Conservative Party primaries for three Suffolk County Legislature seats on June 25 should tell commission members all they need to know about why letting candidates run on multiple ballot lines doesn’t work.

Three Republican write-in candidates defeated opponents who had the Conservative Party endorsement — and the huge advantage of their names printed on ballots. In the 8th District, challenger Anthony Piccirillo beat incumbent Democratic Legis. William Lindsay III. In the 13th, incumbent Rob Trotta beat Conservative Rick Lanese. And in the 14th, incumbent Kevin McCaffrey beat Conservative Tom Gargiulo.

The three defeated candidates who had the Conservative Party’s support got it in a deal between its chairman, Frank Tinari, and county Democratic Party chairman Rich Schaffer. Traditionally, the Conservative line is a GOP candidate’s natural possession, but Schaffer has made a practice of dealing with Conservative Party leaders to get that ballot line, usually in return for Democrats giving their line to the party’s judicial candidates.

But this time, Schaffer was foiled. And since the GOP was able to wrest the Conservative lines away from Schaffer, fusion-voting advocates might claim the system works just fine. But Lanese and Gargiulo are actually Conservative Party members who’ve now lost their party’s own line to Republicans. Gargiulo will run on the Democratic line Schaffer offered in his bid to get the Conservative line for Lindsay.

In a system this convoluted and open to manipulation, the members who believe their parties stand for a governing philosophy are the clear losers. Banning fusion voting is one way to give the process back to the people.  — The editorial board

Correction: Rick Lanese is not running for the legislature as the Democratic nominee in the fall. An earlier version of this editorial was incorrect in saying so.

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