Reform Party of New York & Women’s Equality Party lose ballot status

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Reform Party of New York leader Curtis Sliwa
Reform Party of New York leader Curtis Sliwa. Photo Josh Kesner (CC2.0)

Two of New York’s “fusion voting” parties, the Reform Party of New York State and the Women’s Equality Party, failed to meet the 50,000 vote threshold in yesterday’s New York gubernatorial election. Both parties will now lose their automatic ballot access for the next four years and, as a result, their continued existence is very much in doubt.

A bad night at the polls for fusion parties

All five of New York State’s fusion parties (i.e. minor parties that regularly nominate Republicans or Democrats instead of their own candidates to their party ballot lines) suffered worse results in yesterday’s gubernatorial election than they did in 2014.

According to official preliminary election results, the Conservative Party saw a slight drop from 250,00 to 238,000. The Working Families Party dropped from 126,000 to 105,000, and the Independence Party fell from 77,000 to 63,000.

The results were even more disastrous for the Reform Party of New York and the Women’s Equality Party (WEP). Reform dropped from 51,000 in 2014 (then known as the Stop Common Core Party) to 26,000. The WEP had a similar fall, from 53,000 to 25,000.

Automatic ballot access in New York is awarded only to parties that secure at least 50,000 votes in the gubernatorial election. Assuming the vote tallies are verified, the Reform Party and the WEP are now entering the political wilderness.

The end of the Reform Party of New York State?

Led by anti-crime activist and founder of the Guardian Angles, Curtis Sliwa, the Reform Party of New York is much more a political contrivance than a genuine grassroots movement.

The party was founded as the Stop Common Core Party by the 2014 Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino solely to give himself an extra line on the election ballot. On paper at least, the party was founded to support the repeal of an educational initiative known as the Common Core Standards Initiative.

When the party secured enough votes to achieve automatic ballot access, Astorino needed to dispose of it somehow. He changed its name to the Reform Party with the idea of merging it into the remnant of party left over from Ross Perot’s 1996 presidential campaign. Before this could happen, however, new members Sliwa and Frank Morano gained seats on the party committee and wrested control of the group from Astorino.

Being the chairman of a recognized party, and being able to offer a ballot line to politicians, has kept Sliwa’s media profile current for the last few years. But the party has failed to carve out an independent political identity.

Sliwa’s newlywed wife Nancy was one of the few Reform Party candidates in yesterday’s election running solely on the party’s own line. In the race for New York Attorney General she secured only 24,000 votes (0.43%).

Without an ideological constituency, grassroots party infrastructure, or ballot line to trade for influence, the future for the Reform Party of New York State does not look promising.

The Women’s Equality Party exposed

While the Reform Party will struggle without an automatic ballot line, at least the group does have party activists. In contrast, the Women’s Equality Party appears to be a completely paper organization with no visible membership whatsoever.

The WEP was also founded for the 2014 election, this time to provide an extra ballot line for Governor Andrew Cuomo. Since unexpectedly achieving ballot status in that election, the WEP has regularly been accused of being nothing more than a front for Cuomo.

Since the 2014 election, the party has failed to update its website, and its social media accounts have been dormant for years. In January a woman named Susan Zimet appeared in the media as the party chairman, but so far the organization has been mostly notable for its habit of regularly endorsing men from Governor Cuomo’s political clan over female candidates.

With no genuine membership or measurable activity, it seems likely the WEP is now headed for the political scrapheap.

New York’s crazy ballot now a bit more sane

With five fusion party lines, plus a handful of genuine third-party lines, New York’s ballot has become a tangled mess in recent elections. In the 2014 and 2018 elections two third-party candidates have twice been forced to share a single line at the bottom while Cuomo and his Republican opponent have each had three lines at the top.

Removing the Reform Party and the WEP will considerably relieve ballot congestion, at least for a few years.

But yesterday’s election results, with falling vote counts for all fusion parties across the board, casts a shadow over New York’s odd electoral system as a whole. A similarly sized drop in 2022 would put the future of the Independence Party and the Working Families Party in doubt as well.

Could it be the entire practice of fusion voting is falling out of favor with voters?

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