The Brennan Center has filed a lawsuit on behalf of the Conservative Party of New York State and the Working Families Party against the State Board of Elections over its discriminatory policy of counting political party votes when a voter fills in more than one oval for same candidate running on more than one party line – known as a “double vote.” New York’s “fusion” voting system allows for multiple political parties to endorse the same candidate. Instead of returning the ballot to the voter or providing them with a warning message – something the machines can easily be programmed to do – the policy the state has chosen to adopt is to simply ignore the vote cast for the minor party and count the full vote for the major party. This problem was also described by NY Daily News.
A clear case in point this November is Democratic Party gubernatorial candidate Andrew Cuomo, who has been cross endorsed by the Working Families Party. Should a voter mistakenly fill in the oval with Mr. Cuomo’s name under both party lines, the vote for the Working Families Party is ignored. This is particularly troubling for minor parties, whose definition as a political party under New York Election Law is directly dependant on their ability to receive at least 50,000 votes for their gubernatorial candidate. Their ability to receive 50,000 votes in a gubernatorial election furthermore guarantees minor parties a location on the ballot for the next four years.
The State’s policy is blatantly unconstitutional and, without so much as providing voters with a warning, flatly ignores their intent to support a minor party. This is a problem which can easily be corrected by the State by setting the machines to automatically reject the voter’s ballot and informing the voter that if she wants her vote counted for a political party, she will have to fill out a new ballot and ensure only one oval per contest is marked. We hope the State will do so immediately before votes are lost this November and minor parties bear the brunt of this poor policy choice. You can read more about the case here, as well as download a copy of the complaint.