Litigation to Prevent Suppression of Expression and Protect the Constitutional Rights of Voters and Candidate
Syracuse, NY – The Upstate Jobs Party (UJP) today announced major litigation to prevent a consolidation of ballot lines in the election for Onondaga County Executive and strike down the unconstitutional practice. UJP – a political party focused on boosting the Upstate Economy through innovation, fixing a broken two party system, and reforming New York State government – filed the lawsuit in New York State Supreme Court in Syracuse and were joined by plaintiffs including the NYS Independence Party, Independence Party Chair Frank McKay, and Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon.
The suit contends that the Onondaga County and New York State Boards of Elections, acting upon broken system built by the Governor and Legislature, is attempting to unfairly prevent freedom of speech by denying the UJP their own place on the ballot, despite County Executive Ryan McMahon filing well above the minimum number of signatures to secure the UJP line. The County Executive was notified by the Onondaga County Board of Elections that the UJP line would be consolidated onto the Independence Party ballot line. Such a move both removes UJP as a line on the ballot and complicates voter identification of which party they wish their vote for the candidate to be recorded on thus disenfranchising voters looking to vote on either line.
New York State Election Law is fundamentally skewed towards protecting the two party system – a system that has enabled scores of indictments and convictions for ethical breaches. In this case, the challenged law expressly denies UJP any ballot line at all, instead forcing it to share a ballot line with a different party.
When the Boards of Elections undertake this practice, they further use inconspicuous ballot placement and fine print, concealing a party’s place on the ballot. Plaintiffs are asking the court to strike down the protectionist law for violating their rights guaranteed under the freedom of speech, freedom of association and equal treatment under the law provisions of both the U.S. and New York Constitutions.
UJP Founder Martin Babinec said, “Since forming Upstate Jobs in 2016, we have worked to change a broken political system in New York State so our economy can finally recover and we can reverse the outmigration of our talent. New York’s Constitution provides for fusion voting, whereby a single candidate can be listed on more than one ballot line as a pathway for new political parties to be established. However, over time elected officials have increased the advantages established parties hold over new entrants that now thwarts the political expression fusion voting was intended to create. Without independent candidates and a fundamental freedom to seek office, the two party system will continue to wreak havoc on our people. This approach to elections has hurt candidates on the UJP line for multiple elections and must end now.”
The UJP is focused on policies that foster an environment conducive to creating innovation jobs as the best opportunity to build the Upstate economy with homegrown talent for the next generation. The organization is focused on building priorities around stemming the outflow of our young talent, limiting government roadblocks for the people starting companies and creating jobs, and fully reforming New York State government.
Founded in 2016, the Upstate Jobs Party built support through the platform put forward by Martin Babinec, a successful Silicon Valley entrepreneur who returned home to the Mohawk Valley and has helped hundreds of others start and grow emerging tech companies throughout Upstate NY. In that campaign, Martin’s presence on the UJP line was consolidated by boards of elections of seven counties. The consolidation was incorrectly carried into independent polling – thus negatively impacting the election outcome and disenfranchising the thousands of voters who supported him. This was repeated in 2017, when Ben Walsh, who won the Syracuse Mayoral race as an independent candidate had his presence on the UJP line, consolidated with the Reform Party.
It is perhaps no coincidence that the challenged statute was enacted by the two-party state legislature and Governor. Incidentally, candidates for Governor and State Legislature cannot have their presence on the ballot consolidated in a similar manner.