By Bob Confer
There have been considerable fireworks in the race for governor and with the focus on the Democrat incumbent Kathy Hochul and Republican upstart Lee Zeldin you might think it begins and ends with them.
It doesn’t. There are also some third party candidates – Larry Sharpe (Libertarian) and Howie Hawkins (Green).
You wouldn’t know that, though, because, other than the occasional report of Sharpe’s struggles for ballot access, the press has given them little to no exposure and they weren’t included in the sole gubernatorial debate. The average voter doesn’t know who they are or what their platforms are.
Worse yet, the average voter doesn’t know they can vote for them.
That’s a legacy of the Andrew Cuomo era. Hidden in the bowels of the 2020-2021 state budget were roadblocks to the third parties that were and could be making inroads in a nation so starkly divided along two-party lines.
Under the old rules, a party itself could achieve and maintain ballot access by securing 50,000 votes in the race for governor. The new rules require minor parties to requalify every 2 years by receiving either 2 percent of total votes or 130,000 votes in a presidential or gubernatorial race.
Also, any party that became unqualified has to complete a more rigorous petition process in order to get a candidate listed. It used to take 15,000 signatures. Now, it’s 45,000. Imagine the roadwork, hustle, and hassle that is needed to canvas the state for 3 times the number of signatures than were needed during the last gubernatorial/mid-term election.
Of the minor parties in New York, Conservative and Working Families remain standing after reaching the 130,000-vote criteria in the 2020 presidential election. One could argue, though, that neither of them are true third parties – they are voices of and influencers of the Republican and Democrat parties, respectively. You see that in New York’s fusion politics that have those alleged third party lines basically parroting the other two parties on the ballot.
So, gone off the ballot are the Independence, Libertarian, Green and Serve America Movement parties. It should be noted that the Libertarian Party’s presidential candidate in 2020, Jo Jorgensen, garnered 60,000 votes in New York, which would have surpassed the old threshold and kept the LP on the ballot.
You will notice, though, that the LaRouche Independent party is on the ballot. But, that’s for one candidate, one race only (Diane Sare for US Senate). That took some serious moxie and hours on the road to secure 45,000 signatures.
The loss of ballot access makes things very difficult for those who want to break up the status quo or voters who want someone, something different. That was by design. The nine-member commission that devised the rules was made up of Democrats and Republicans – no independents, no citizens above the fray — so it’s not the least bit coincidental that it was a commission doing the work of the two Parties, not of the People. If those significant policy changes don’t tell you that they think the minor parties could pose a threat to their power, especially now as people seek alternatives to the duopoly than has torn apart the country in ugly ways, then nothing will.
As daunting as the fight may be, it’s not time to throw in the towel. It never is. If Sharpe or Hawkins more closely align with what you want from your governor, vote for them. Sure, it’s highly unlikely they’ll win, but it’s not a vote thrown away — vote on principle always and never on party alone. Vote to be one of the 130,000 to help secure ballot access in the future, which brings alternative ideas to the table, press, debate, and people in the next big election.
I, for one, am voting for Larry Sharpe. I’ve been writing columns since 2005 and in 2018 he became, and remains, the only candidate for any office whom I’ve ever endorsed. His ideas and heart speak to me. I, as a family man and businessman who loves New York and has a vested interest in its future, find value in the Sharpe way.
Whether you’re joining me in voting for Sharpe or maybe Hawkins is your guy, you might be wondering: Just how do you vote for someone who doesn’t appear on the ballot?
Look all the way to the bottom of the ballot on the front page of your form. There will be a line for “Write-In”. In the column and box for Governor write-in either Larry Sharpe or Howie Hawkins. Do so legibly – print, don’t write in cursive, and take your time if you have bad writing. Make sure you spell their names correctly, too (that is, Sharpe with an “e” and “Howie” is preferred over “Howard”).
Don’t be afraid to do it. By advancing alternatives, in the form of both ideas and people, third parties could be a means to improve outcomes and mend a broken New York, a broken America.