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Libertarian Party Sues Over N.Y.'s New Ballot Access Requisites

July 28, 2020, 9:27 PM

The Libertarian Party of New York sued the New York State Board of Elections in Manhattan Tuesday, alleging Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) enacted “patently unconstitutional” thresholds to keep minor party candidates from competing against him.

The complaint in federal court alleges that up until recently, and since 1936, a political party only had to receive 50,000 votes for governor every four years in order to qualify for ballot access. Alternatively, parties were required to provide a petition with 15,000 signatures received over six weeks.

The political party says Cuomo changed the rules as part of a “last minute” addition to the state’s new budget, partly to appease “a personal vendetta.”

The new thresholds are 130,000 votes for governor and president every two years (or 2 percent of the total vote, whichever is greater), and 45,000 signatures over the same period of time (or 1 percent of total enrolled voters, whichever is less), the complaint filed in the Southern District of New York says.

Even more “galling,” the state Libertarians say, “is that he did so not only by conditioning a new campaign finance regime on the thresholds, but also by adding the new thresholds—at the last minute—into the New York State FY2020 budget.”

And that, they note, “was passed in the midst of an unprecedented emergency necessitating a swift response to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Causes of Action: Violations of due process and equal protection under the the First and Fourteenth Amendments, and violations of New York Constitution Art. VII, § 6.

Relief: Judgment declaring the change unconstitutional, order enjoining enforcement, attorneys’ costs and fees.

Response: The New York State Board of Elections didn’t immediately respond to Bloomberg Law’s request for comments.

Attorneys: The plaintiffs are represented by Michael Kuzma of Buffalo. Counsel information for the defendants wasn’t immediately available.

The case is Libertarian Party of N.Y. v. N.Y.S. Bd. of Elections, S.D.N.Y., No. 1:20-cv-05820, 7/27/20.

To contact the reporter on this story: David McAfee in Los Angeles at dmcAfee@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Rob Tricchinelli at rtricchinelli@bloomberglaw.com; Steven Patrick at spatrick@bloomberglaw.com