Once created as a home for the non-partisan voter, New York’s Independence Party may soon have to be fighting for its life.
That’s after the state Public Finance Commission voted to change the requirements political parties must meet in order to stay on the ballot.
Minor parties will soon be required to get 130,000 votes or 2 percent in gubernatorial or presidential elections. Currently, parties must receive 50,000 votes every four years to maintain ballot status.
Those who worked to form the Independence Party in New York are crying foul, including Cathy Stewart the current vice president for national development at Independent Voting, are accusing the governor of a partisan power play.
“They’re looking to preserve partisan power, protect their self-interest and minimize the vote and influence of independence and insurgencies,” Stewart said.
The Independence Party rose to prominence in the mid 90’s after presidential candidate Ross Perot delivered one of the strongest presidential showings by a third party in U.S. history.
“We used the independence party to leverage for non-partisan governance and reforms,” she added.
In recent years, the party has struggled for relevance; however the ballot provided significant votes for multiple candidates including Governor Cuomo and Michael Bloomberg, whose deal making with the group in 2001– even among controversy following anti-Semitic comments by a party leader, helped secure his first mayoral win. He went on to use the line for victories in 2005 and 2009.
The party’s ability to deliver votes at the ballot box has steadily declined in the last decade. They hit the lowest point last year, registering just under 69,000 votes.
“Little by little they became nothing, they didn’t stand for anything and when you don’t, people don’t know what to get behind. So the governor, that’s a speck on his shoulder he’d rather get rid of them and not have to deal with them,” said former Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, a Republican who also ran for governor in 2014.
The party has also been plagued by controversy and accusations of cult-like and deceptive tactics once led by the late psychotherapist Fred Newman and others.
“The independence party is really a paper party; most people don’t really know what they stand for. They’re going to have a much harder time reaching that threshold," Astorino said.
Internal power struggles and a lack of a clear organization have also contributed to the party's diminished status. We reached out repeatedly for comment to the party's leadership but received no response.