Voting in New York, and why have any party affiliation?
September 9, 2018 9:21 AM   Subscribe

what are the laws in ny re: voting? i know ny has some odd restrictions. can independents participate in all elections? including primaries? why register with ANY of them? or will this disenfranchise me? what advantage is there, if any, to being an independent?
posted by ebesan to Law & Government (12 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Parties are essentially private entities and can set their own rules for how they conduct their business - electing officers, endorsing candidates, running meetings, etc.

While the state is essentially paying for the election the parties get to determine who is allowed to vote in them. There is an argument to be made that the Democratic or Republican parties should be allowed to determine who exactly is allowed to vote for their standard bearers in a primary.

If you register as an Independent you will not be able to participate in party specific primary, but will be free to vote for whoever you want on any line in the general. So you could register as a Democrat to vote in the Democratic primaries, but choose to vote under the Working Families Party line for the general.

As a registered Independent you may end up getting more calls from different campaigns trying to secure your vote, which may not actually be an advantage.
posted by brookeb at 9:28 AM on September 9, 2018

In New York State on Primary Day (September 13th this year), you can only vote in your party's primary. Some off-years this means your party's ballot will be rather shallow, if your party only has one possible nominee for a position, they just don't hold on election, and therefore your ballot is only very local races (State Assembly or District Leader, for instance). Some times it means no primary at all in your district. (I've worked several election years where some voters served by a polling site have ballots because their district has a contested nomination, and others don't, and so voters are confused and a bit suspicious.)

However, this year all districts have a Democratic primary because of the Nixon/Cuomo contest for the Governor nomination. At the very least, that will be on the Democratic Party Primary ballot throughout the state.

If you are registered as a voter, with no party affiliation, then there is no primary for you. However, be careful, because NYS does have an Independence Party, which is right-leaning. I've repeatedly seen voters think they are registered as "independent" meaning "no party" and find out they are actually on the rolls for Independence Party. Some smaller parties may also endorse Democratic candidates (usually the Working Families Party, for example), but you must actually be registered in the Democratic Party to vote in their primary. If you're registered with WFP, you only vote if WFP has a primary.

Depending on where in New York State you live, it's probably too late to register for the primary. It may not be too late to register for the General Election in November. In November, every registered voter can vote, regardless of party registration, because everyone gets the same ballot.
posted by The Pluto Gangsta at 9:32 AM on September 9, 2018 [1 favorite]

Addendum, re: third parties:

I just remembered that, while you must be a registered Democrat to vote in the Dem primary, and a registered Republican to vote in Rep primary, the smaller third parties are allowed to have more relaxed rules at their discretion.

For example, I recall that one year when the Working Families Party actually did have a primary, their by-laws allowed for people who were WFP or registered without a party to vote. This was a special exception.

There really is no advantage, other than perhaps a feeling of moral superiority, from not registering with any party.
By refusing to do so, you are excluding yourself from having a vote in primary elections, and in NY (especially in New York City), the primaries are often as important as the general election.
posted by The Pluto Gangsta at 9:39 AM on September 9, 2018 [5 favorites]

In addition to the stuff about primaries, which is the case in NYS, because of the previously stated Independent/ Independence Party confusion, I got some really out-there right-wing stuff in the mail when a registered independent (I’m pretty sure that I had it correct; the Independence Party folks mailed to both groups of registrants just in case.)
posted by tchemgrrl at 9:43 AM on September 9, 2018

Also, since the OP sounds new to NYS and/or voting, if I can just throw out a Public Service Announcement in this space:


Other states are currently mired in right-wing-led voter suppression disguised as "fighting vote fraud" and that's a problem, but in New York you don't need ID to vote. The only exceptions are related to the various methods of voting registration, where someone registers without demonstrating residence and they "promise" to show some form of ID the first time they vote. Those people are very clearly marked in the Registration List (the book you sign to get a ballot) and have "ID REQ'D" next to their name. In 10+ years working at poll sites, I have seen several names with that notation, but never had to actually ask someone for ID.

You might see some people show their driver's license (or various election mailings with their name on it) to the poll workers, but this is usually because the Reg Lists are alphabetized by last name and they're showing how the name is spelled.

You can actually see the manual that pollworkers are trained on right here. Any poll worker who tells you otherwise is lying (or poorly trained), and anyone spreading rumors to the contrary is garbage.
posted by The Pluto Gangsta at 10:01 AM on September 9, 2018 [3 favorites]

can independents participate in all elections? including primaries?

No, only in general elections.

why register with ANY of them? or will this disenfranchise me?

You register with a party because you want to participate in its primaries.

what advantage is there, if any, to being an independent?

There is none.

Unless you are already registered with a party, you cannot participate in its primary on Thursday. That deadline has passed.

You should be aware that NY doesn't want people flipping their party registration around all the time. Democratic primaries are for people who are, sincerely and in the longer term, Democrats, and likewise for Republican primaries. The Democratic primary in NY is not for people who were registered independent or Republican a few weeks ago, because those people put their name to a document promising that they weren't Democrats. The deadline for voting in this year's primary election is that you are either a new registrant or you changed your party registration before the local elections *last* year.

tl;dr: if you think you want to participate in the D primaries in 2020, you need to register with the party before the local elections next year, and realistically might as well do it now while you're thinking about it.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 10:46 AM on September 9, 2018 [2 favorites]

There really is no advantage, other than perhaps a feeling of moral superiority, from not registering with any party.

You also end up on said party's mailing lists, which is an absolute pain because it often means being harassed for money -- particularly galling in places like NY, where you're essentially forced to register with a party in order to have a voice in primaries, so you're signing up for junk mail, like it or not. But since the alternative is being silenced, people in places with closed primaries are stuck doing it.
posted by halation at 11:20 AM on September 9, 2018

"Independents" (NYS calls them non-affiliated or unaffiliated voters) actually CAN vote in Thursday's primary, although this is not an every-time thing. The Reform Party, because it is so small, is allowing non-affiliated voters to vote on its ballot this go-around. This is not the first time that a party has done this in NYS, although I believe it is the first time the Reform Party has done it.

And yes, the Independence Party is a thing in NYS and if you are affiliated with them you are NOT an "independent," unaffiliated voter and based on my experience I am sure that at least half of the voters registered with this party have absolutely no comprehension of this.

I can't wait until Thursday, when I am going to have to explain all of this over, and over, and over again at the polling place I will be working.

Note well that the parties in NYS really, really, REALLY don't like voters switching affiliation, so the rules are that an affiliation change doesn't stick until AFTER a general election has occurred. That is, if you are currently registered as, e.g., a Democrat, or unaffiliated, and changed your affiliation to, say, Republican this past January, you still wouldn't be able to vote in the Republican primary until NEXT year. This rule doesn't apply to new registrants. Yes, this is probably the most restrictive party-changing rule in the country.

AFAICT, there is no real advantage to being registered as an independent apart from not getting contacted by the local party operatives to GOTV.

So, if you think you might want to vote in a primary next year or later, you pretty much have to pick a party when you register. I don't see any disadvantage to that, even if you think you might change your mind. If you register now as unaffiliated, you are giving up the chance to vote in any primaries next year, unless you change that by 25 days before the upcoming November election.

Any other questions about NYS election law, go ahead and ask. There are lots of good links on the nuts and bolts here.
posted by Opposite George at 12:31 PM on September 9, 2018 [1 favorite]

However, this year all districts have a Democratic primary because of the Nixon/Cuomo contest for the Governor nomination. At the very least, that will be on the Democratic Party Primary ballot throughout the state.

Also the AG race (James/Teachout/etc.).

NY allows fusion voting but that shouldn't affect the primaries.
posted by praemunire at 5:54 PM on September 9, 2018

I switched my registration from one of the two large parties to independent. That is no party affiliation. The only thing I cannot do is vote in a party primary. That includes national presidential primaries. That is either a feature or a bug depending on your point of view and who the candidates may be. For example, I could not vote for either Hillary or Bernie or Trump or any other republican. I did vote in the general election.

My decision to drop a party affiliation was a small personal protest against both parties becoming so partisan and extreme while they ignored the majority of middle class and the disenfranchised in the community all bc of moneyed special interests.
posted by AugustWest at 9:56 PM on September 9, 2018 [1 favorite]

At least in NYC, the Democratic primary very often, for all intents and purposes, IS the election.
posted by the_blizz at 6:54 PM on September 10, 2018 [2 favorites]

« Older Best price/quality point for LoveSac type thingy   |   Solo Orchestra Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.