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Change In State Budget Impacts Minor Political Parties

It’s now even more difficult for Libertarians and other minor political parties to be on the ballot.

Earlier this month when the state Legislature passed the 2020-21 state budget, one measure impacted several minor political parties negatively when the number of votes needed to be considered a major political party increased.

The new law calls for third parties to have a tally of at least 130,000 votes, or 2% of the total, which ever is larger, on their line in presidential and gubernatorial elections to maintain their automatic place on the ballot.

Previously, a minor party needed just 50,000 votes in a gubernatorial election to maintain a spot on the state ballot.

In 2018, Libertarian gubernatorial candidate Larry Sharpe received more than 50,000 votes, changing the Libertarian Party from a minor to a major political party.

However, because of the new changes in the state budget, it will be even more difficult for the Libertarian Party to remain an established party.

Andrew Martin Kolstee, Chautauqua County Libertarian Party chairman, said the increase in the number of votes is an attempt to knock out all third parties.

“It took the Libertarian Party 40 years to get ballot access,” he said. “It’s hard to grow as a party when the number to get on the ballot is so high.”

Kolstee said the Libertarian Party received ballot access after 90,000 people voted for Sharpe in 2018 during the gubernatorial race. He said reaching the new number of 130,000 will be even more difficult during the next gubernatorial election and will be nearly impossible during a presidential election.

“Gary Johnson (Libertarian Party candidate for president) in 2016 got 57,000 votes (in New York state) on the Libertarian line,” Kolstee said. “Now the new number is 130,000, or 2%, and it’s not even every gubernatorial election. It also includes presidential elections. The problem with that is New York state is not a focus (of the national Libertarian Party.) Gary Johnson barely campaigned in New York state. He mostly campaigned out west in those areas to get 5% to 10% of vote to get ballot access in those states.”

Kolstee said if the Libertarian Party isn’t on the ballot automatically, then party members have to spend time trying to be placed on the ballot instead of delivering the party’s message to voters.

“We have to spend all of our resources just to get on the ballot,” he said. We just want a line on the ballot so voters can vote for us and we can just talk about the issues.”

Kolstee said a lawsuit has been filed to fight the changes in the 2020-21 state budget.

Prior to the passing of the state budget, the state Public Finance Commission also approved an increase in the number of votes needed to be a major political party. In March, however, the commission’s decision was ruled unconstitutional by a state Supreme Court justice in Niagara County.

Judge Ralph A. Boniello III ruled that the state Legislature improperly gave the commission lawmaking power when it was created as part of the 2019-20 state budget.

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