SAM-NY Seeks Federal Court Injunction to Stop NY Ballot Access Law

Press Release: May 20, 2020

View the court filing here: https://joinsamny.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/2020.05.11-Dkt.-62-AMENDED-COMPLAINT.pdf

2020.05.11 Dkt. 62 — AMENDED COMPLAINT

On May 18, 2020, the SAM Party of New York filed a motion for a preliminary injunction in Federal Court, seeking to stop enforcement of a new ballot access law that would deprive it of its official status as a party in New York unless it runs a Presidential candidate in the upcoming November 2020 election.

In support of the requested preliminary injunction, SAM-NY and SAM-NY Chairman Michael Volpe argue that the Presidential candidacy requirement contained in New York’s newly amended election law violates the First and Fourteenth Amendment rights of SAM-NY and its members.  “New York recently made it much harder for an organization to qualify as a ‘party’ under its Election Laws,” the Plaintiffs argue in their motion.  “SAM and Volpe bring this action to declare the Presidential-election requirement unconstitutional as applied to SAM, and here seek a preliminary injunction to prevent Defendants from stripping SAM of its “party” status after the November 2020 Presidential election.”

In 2018, the SAM-NY party ran candidates for Governor and Lt. Governor that received 55,041 votes, exceeding the threshold then required to give SAM-NY party status and automatic ballot status for four years, through 2022.  On April 3, however, New York law was changed and now requires any political party to receive greater than 2% of the votes cast or 130,000 votes, in the upcoming Presidential election, in order to hold onto its party status.  SAM-NY, which is affiliated with the national Serve America Movement, says in its filing that it has no intention or desire to run a candidate for President in 2020 and cannot constitutionally be forced to do so.

Ballot-access expert Richard Winger, publisher and editor of Ballot Access News, submitted a declaration in support of the injunction.  Mr. Winger explained that “New York’s Presidential-election requirement places New York at the extreme of the ballot-access requirements of the 50 states.  Requiring a political ‘party’ to participate in a Presidential election is extremely rare, and is among the most severe burdens placed on political organizations in this country.”

SAM-NY Chairman Volpe, in his declaration said, “[t]o have a chance to establish name and brand recognition as a ‘new kind of party’ and avoid getting prematurely embroiled in, or associated with one side or the other of, the ideological divide, SAM intends to continue to forego espousing substantive positions and nominating candidates for President.”  Volpe added that “the likelihood of a new candidate getting the greater of 2% of the vote or 130,000 votes in a hotly contested election is nearly zero.”

SAM-NY member and Assembly candidate Evelyn Wood filed a declaration in support of the motion.  “I understand that because SAM will not run a candidate for President it will lose its ‘party’ status after the November 2020,” Wood wrote.  “That will only discourage qualified candidates for running for office and limit political discourse in the State.  SAM’s ‘party’ status allows people like me, who are dissatisfied with the angry rhetoric of the major parties, to seek public office to represent people who are similarly dissatisfied with our politics today.”

SAM also argued that the newly adopted requirement of running a Presidential candidate is an unconstitutional burden for a brand new state party.  According to the papers filed in support of the motion, the only justification ever suggested for requiring parties in New York to run candidates for President is that the new mandate is necessary to protect the solvency of a new public campaign finance system also established by the new law.  But, as SAM-NY pointed out, the new campaign finance system does not apply to federal candidates, let alone Presidential candidates.  And the new restrictions on parties come into effect immediately while the new public finance provisions do not come into effect until November 9, 2022, after the next Gubernatorial election.

SAM-NY offers New Yorkers a different approach to governing focused on transparency and accountability, rather than on ideology, and empowers its candidates and elected officials to serve the needs of their constituents and not be controlled by inflexible left/right political positions that are increasingly partisan. Visit joinsamny.org for more information.

Dan Murphy, SAM-NY Communications, (914) 714-4370, dmurphy@joinsamny.org