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Liberate voters from misleading party label

The party affiliation section of the voting ballot.

The party affiliation section of the voting ballot. Credit: Board of Elections

More and more Americans prefer not to be aligned with any political party. A Pew Research Center analysis of voter identity says 39 percent in 2014 called themselves independents, the highest percentage in 75 years, while 32 percent identified as Democrats and 23 percent as Republicans.

But for years New York's byzantine Board of Elections has made it difficult to remain free and clear of membership in a specific party. Those voters who wanted to register as "blanks," a rather unfortunate term election insiders use, sometimes mistakenly joined the Independence Party, thinking it is the same thing. It's not.

The Independence Party is a formal party, although lately it's hard to discern what its governing philosophy is other than enrichment of its insiders.

Now, after considerable criticism, the Board of Elections is at least making the distinction clearer. The improved registration form lists eight party options and a space for "other." There is also a more prominently displayed "I do not wish to enroll in a political party" area.

Of Nassau County's 975,515 registered voters, 221,739 are not members of a party, while 36,320 are Independence Party members. Of Suffolk's 947,901 registered voters, 254,701 are unaligned and 44,770 signed on with the Independence Party.

This fix, however, doesn't take care of a bigger problem. The name "Independence Party" may fool people into voting for it. Voters often prefer to choose candidates who are cross-endorsed on the Independence line, rather than Republican or Democratic lines. This gives minor parties outsized patronage clout. The new form is better, but if the Board of Elections wants to stop small-party shenanigans, it should make the Independence Party change its name.