PAM says GOP and Tories attempt to plunder its polling lines
ALBANY – The Liberal Workers’ Families Party says it is raided by former Republicans and Tories who transferred their registration this year to the Minor Party and then submitted petitions to hold primaries against PAM candidates, according to a review by Newsday.
Members of the Working Families Party say the June primary efforts put their approved candidates in Southampton at risk, mislead voters and drive up the public cost of holding the primaries.
“The NY GOP is engaged in a coordinated attack on the Working Families Party,” said Sharon Cromwell, deputy director of WFP. “They know they cannot win on these issues and therefore resort to dirty tactics to confuse voters and steal the elections. We should expect better from our political parties than underhanded attempts to thwart the democratic process. “
On January 13, Hampton Bays’ Miranda Schultz was a Republican, as she had been since joining the party in 2013. Her husband, Sean McArdle, was a registered Conservative, as he had been since. that he enlisted in the party in 2008., according to records from the Suffolk County Board of Elections.
The next day, January 14, Schultz and Sean McArdle enlisted in the Working Families Party and on March 25 they had submitted petitions to become WFP candidates for Southampton City Council. This forced a Working Families Party primary in June against the two candidates who had been questioned, vetted and approved by the minor party. WFP chose to endorse candidates who already had Democratic endorsements.
But now the primary could potentially cost Democrats the Family Task Force ballot in the November general election. In New York City, minor party lines are coveted by major party candidates because they can attract voters from the other major party as well as voters who are not registered with any party.
Also in Southampton, Marc Braeger joined the working families group on February 10, according to county election board records. He was previously listed as a Republican and Conservative since 2019. He forced a PAM primary against Thomas Neely, the PAM-endorsed candidate.
Mark Cuthbertson, an attorney working with the Working Families Party and a former Huntington city councilor, said the petitions for Braeger, Schultz and McArdle were brought by Republican and Conservative agents. “I think it happens a lot statewide,” he said. “It can happen without people knowing it.”
Small parties, including the Green Party, have experienced a similar strategy in some statewide elections for years. They call it “group raids”. They say the strategy of the main party leaders is to get their own loyalists to join a minor party although they don’t support minor party positions, and then force a primary without campaigning. The strategy can undermine an opponent’s resources and confuse voters.
Spokesmen for the Suffolk County Republican Committee, County Conservative Party and Southampton Republican Committee did not respond to requests for comment.
Gerald Benjamin, a political scientist at the State University of New York at New Paltz, said the practice was “harsh” and “ethically problematic,” but not illegal. He said this reflected the increased polarization of politics.
This year, the strategy is easier to implement. Due to the pandemic, state laws have reduced the number of party member signatures required to nominate petitions for a party primary from 5% of party members in electoral jurisdiction, such as a city, to 1, 5%. In many jurisdictions, that could be as few as half a dozen signatures from party members.
The collection of petitions was also necessary for “the opportunity to vote,” a process that allowed a party member to petition to force a primary with an open place for a registered candidate determined by voters.
The Democratic-controlled state legislature suspended the opportunity to vote for that primary in February. Democratic lawmakers said both steps were taken to limit the contacts and gatherings needed to get signatures during the pandemic.
Republicans, including Assemb. Andrew Goodell (R-Jamestown), opposed the suspension of the opportunity to vote. Goodell said the measure was “as undemocratic as it gets” because it prevents party members from challenging the approval of party leaders.
Members of the Working Family Party say they see Republicans and Tories signing up for PAM this year as a way to get around the suspension of voting.
“This strategy of party subversion is politically tough at the local level,” said Doug Muzzio, political scientist at Baruch. College generally speaking about practice. “It’s not so much voter suppression as voter deception. The goal is obvious: to weaken the candidates supported by the PAM for the benefit of the republicans / conservatives. These actors use a “fifth column” to gain electoral advantage. A former tactical Soviet Union brought into the 21st century. “
Lawrence Levy, who has been a political observer on Long Island for decades, said he had never seen this strategy used before.
“It is ironic that reforms to open up democracy and make polling stations accessible to more people have opened the door to politically opportunistic efforts to exploit them with the opposite intention,” said Levy, executive dean of the National Center for Suburban Studies at Hofstra University.
Robin Long is an electoral law attorney who said she went through lengthy checks by WFP leaders to make sure she supported their policies. Now she finds herself in a Working Families Party primary against Schultz, the former Republican; and McArdle, the former curator; who didn’t go through this process and only needed three or four signatures to force the primary.
She calls this a new form of voter suppression.
“It’s only to cause chaos,” she said. “The intention is so clearly to raid the parties because they have no intention of running or speaking to voters.”