Earlier this year, the state legislature created a commission to implement a system of publicly-funded elections in New York State, much like the public matching system we have in the city.
But the newly-appointed commission will also have the power to strike down fusion voting, which allows small third parties to cross endorse major party candidates. And now two of those third parties - the Working families party, also known as the WFP and the conservative party are suing, saying the commission could all but put them out of business.
"We believe that the bigger overriding issue is the legislature's belief that they can keep on creating commissions that have the power to make law. We just do not see how that is appropriate," said Conservative Party Chairman, Gerard Kassar.
Last year, the legislature also created a commission to determine pay raises for lawmakers. The commission approved those raises, but its authority was challenged in court and the salary increases were recently struck down.
Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, who is named in the suit, says fusion voting is not the main charge of the new commission.
"Apparently to them it is. That's why they filed the lawsuit. It's just one of the things in the criteria, in the drafting of the legislation that the commission could look at. The members have just been picked. They haven't had a meeting, they haven't had a discussion of particulars," said Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie.
The WFP and the conservative party rely on fusion voting to keep their ballot status. To remain viable they must secure 50,000 votes on their line in a gubernatorial election year, and often cross endorse Democrats in the WFP’s case or Republicans in the Conservative Party’s case, to do that.
"Fusion voting is something I believe that is embedded in our constitution. It gives the right of any individual voter choices which are aligned with their politics," said Assemblyman Walter Mosely.
Critics believe Cuomo put fusion voting on the chopping block because he is angry with the WFP for endorsing his primary opponent last year, Cynthia Nixon.
"We do get the sense that the Governor has been focused on getting rid of the Working Families Party and all the other third parties that represent hundreds of thousands of votes that are being encapsulated in this particular vendetta," said Kassar.
Fusion voting has been challenged in New York Courts before and was held up in 1910, 1911 and 1973. The Cuomo administration claims it has no official position on fusion voting, and says the Working Families Party’s only objective here is to maintain its power in elections.