Many of us are sick and tired of the hyper-partisanship that has become the default in politics. Back room deals, rule by executive order, and legislative gridlock are now the hallmarks of government across America. Nowhere is this more prevalent than in our own New York State.

The two major political parties play the game here in New York.  They make the rules of the game and their members are the players; but to the detriment of the citizenry, the major parties have ensconced themselves as the referees, calling fouls and assessing penalties, if and when, they occur. The two parties in New York do agree on a single point – no other entity should have any meaningful role in the game aside from them. Period.

Ballot Access

The process for gaining ballot access in New York is a master class in the disenfranchisement of individuals and groups who dare to think or act politically outside of major party lines. In many cases the rules for those considering independent candidacy for public office in New York are so different from those of the duopoly as to render any effort outside the two parties futile. 

By way of example, during the last gubernatorial election cycle, New York State implemented an election law that effectively eliminated five of the seven constituted minor parties in future elections by changing voting thresholds to secure placement on the ballot. Previously, in order to gain an automatic ballot line, a political party had to have its nominee for Governor receive 50,000 votes in each four-year cycle. The new law significantly increased that requirement to 2% of votes or 130,000, whichever is greater, every two years, in gubernatorial and presidential elections. Those wishing to express their political opinions by voting for a Reform, Green, Libertarian, Independence Party or Serve America Movement (SAM) ticket are unlikely to see candidates on any of those ballot lines again. 

In short, access to ballot by independent political thinkers has been throttled.

The hurdles preventing independent ballot access have grown exponentially at the hands of the major parties and it’s the burgeoning middle of the political spectrum that suffers as a result. 

As the far wing of each major party controls who is selected to carry its party’s banner, their positions become increasingly partisan; their willingness to collaborate lessens; and their ability to govern erodes. Those in the middle, on both sides of the aisle, are faced with gridlock on one hand or wildly fluctuating, inconsistent policy and law on the other. Continuing this path of hyper partisanship is clearly unsustainable.

The Politics Industry

Katherine Gehl and Michael Porter (The Politics Industry) prescribe a solution to this broken system of governing, involving common sense reforms like open primaries where all voters can participate, creating a pathway for the top 4-5 primary vote getters being on the general election ballot and use of ranked choice voting. 

Were these reforms implemented, it would shift the power away from leadership in the two parties and to the candidates seeking votes from all over the spectrum instead of being limited to voters registered in one of the two major parties. 

Suffice it to say that the two major parties are vehemently opposed to changes along these lines.  However, there are glimmers of hope, as this year, New York City primaries will be conducted via Ranked Choice Voting.

Over the coming months, UJP will be sharing more information on a new initiative to improve our democracy called Unite NY.  Unite NY is a political movement dedicated to changing the way politics is done in New York State. It embraces the notion of collegial cooperation and collaboration focusing on government, economic development, and educational reform in order to engage and empower the vast majority of New Yorkers in the middle of the political spectrum. 

I’m really excited to be part of this new movement and to be part of this team that will be seeking serious reform and change in New York.  We’d love to have you join us!