[JK: Full disclosure. I have been a member of the Working Families Party since 2008]
In an effort to steal the ballot line of the Working Families Party (WFP) for their candidates, local Republicans have organized a campaign to get some members of their party to change their registration from Republican to Working Families Party.
This is part of a statewide Republican strategy. The Rensselaer County Republican Party has been using this strategy for several years but only recently has this tactic appeared here in our county.
Frustrated by the traditional Democratic Party, the Working Families Party (WFP)was established on 1998 in New York by a coalition of progressive groups and unions. WFP endorses candidates on the state, local and national level and now has active chapters in fourteen other states and Washington, DC. Candidates seeking the WFP endorsement even on the local level are required to answer an extensive questionnaire focusing on issues such as climate change, universal healthcare, raising the minimum wage, and student debt.
In spite of the modest number of voters who have been registered in the WFP in Saratoga Springs, the number of people voting on that line is quite impressive. Finance Commissioner Michele Madigan’s recent successful election was due in great part to the votes she received on the WFP line.
To give some sense of just how wide the gap is between the policies promoted by the WFP and those supported by the Republican Party, consider this published legislative agenda from the WFP:
The Republican effort to capture this line reflects a disturbingly cynical plan to deceive voters in Saratoga Springs. The Republicans apparently hope that people will innocently vote for candidates on the WFP line thinking they are supporting progressive causes unaware that they are voting instead for traditional Republicans. [While WFP usually endorses Democrats they have endorsed some Republicans, but they are looking for candidates who support their agenda.]
I contacted Saratoga Springs Republican Party Chair Chris Obstarczyk to ask him about the registration changes. I like Chris. Under his leadership the recent city electoral campaigns by Republicans have been civil and substantive.
My conversation with Chris was disappointing, though. He deflected my questions about who was behind this drive to re-register Republicans as Working Family Party members by asserting that his committee has not been involved.
My effort to get him to condemn this strategy also proved fruitless.
According to the Saratoga County Board of Elections thirty-four registered voters in the county changed their registration from the Republican Party to the Working Families Party this year. Of the thirty-four, all but five were from Saratoga Springs.
Town Number Of People Who Changed
Saratoga Springs 29
Below I have listed the Republicans who changed registration.
7 thoughts on “Hard Ball Politics In Saratoga Springs: Local Republicans Try To Take Over Working Families Party Ballot Line”
So what’s the problem exactly?
The problem is that when you vote for a WFP candidate, you assume they represent the WFP’s progressive positions. When Republicans change their registration and take over the WFP’s ballot line, they siphon votes away from Democrats and other progressive candidates. It’s an act of piracy that’s designed to fool unsuspecting voters.
Also, NY State has an arcane law called “Opportunity to Ballot” in which a party member can circulate petitions to put a non-party member on their party’s ballot. When I was involved with getting Green Party candidates on the ballot in Rensselaer County and the City of Troy, there were whole blocks of Republicans and Democrats who re-registered as Greens and circulated petitions among other fake Greens (re-registered Republicans and Democrats) in order to take over the Green Party’s legitimate ballot lines. They (mainly Republicans) did this with the WFP, too. In a few cases, we were able to force a primary and keep them off. We did this in Schenectady County, too. To my knowledge, this is the first time it’s happening in Saratoga County, but it won’t be the last as the GOP tries to suppress Democratic votes by any means possible.
The WFP maintains it’s ballot line because of its strength in New York City. This strategy works here because of the low number of registered WFP members in Saratoga Springs and Saratoga County. To file a petition, you only need 5% of registered party members to sign a nominating petition. Saratoga Springs has 101 active registered WFP voters. That means, you only need 6 signatures on a petition to qualify for the WFP ballot line or force a primary. It’s why you used to see Republicans on Green, WFP, and Libertarian party lines, too. It’s a way of denying legitimate minor party members a place on their own party’s ballot line.
Taking over the WFP’s ballot lines is a strategy that’s promoted in Saratoga County by the GOP leadership and if Chris Obstarczyk refuses to comment, it’s because he’s taking a cue from the national party and lying through his gnarly teeth. How long will it be before he starts promoting the rigged election lies, too?
In the South, we have voter suppression, In New York State, we have candidate suppression. Opportunity to Ballot and an increased voter threshold to maintain party ballot line status are part of the major party’s schemes to limit voter choice.
All of the WFP candidates in the 2021 Saratoga Springs election appear to be re-registered Republicans. Don’t be fooled! Don’t vote for them!
I have to say, Joe, the Democrats in New York are not entirely innocent in the candidate suppression category you reference . It was Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo, not the Republicans, who was responsible for raising the requirements for third parties such as the WFP to get a ballot line thus limiting voter choice.
I should have been more explicit in spreading the blame around when I wrote about the “increased voter threshold to maintain party ballot line status.” It was Democrat Andrew Cuomo’s scheme to disenfranchise the Working Families Party in revenge for pitting Cynthia Nixon against him in the 2018 gubernatorial primary, but all it did was to make the WFP stronger at the expense of the Green, Libertarian, and a couple of fringe parties.
Democrats are equally guilty in using the Opportunity to Ballot (OTB) gimmick, mainly in Rensselaer County, where a gang of re-registered former Democrats took over several Green Party lines in local elections, much the way Saratoga Republicans did with the WFP.
In 2016, the state senate race in District 46, which includes parts of Montgomery, Schenectady, Albany, Ulster, and all of Greene counties was an interesting example of electoral corruption. Democrat Sara Niccoli asked for the Green Party’s endorsement, but the Green Party had a policy of not cross-endorsing candidates from other parties. So, Niccoli started an OTB campaign to steal the Green Party ballot line. Republican George Amedore got wind of this and started circulating his own OTB petitions. In response, the Green Party nominated Maria Karuna Seales of Woodstock as their official candidate.
In preparation for a Green Party campaign to get out the vote for Seales, I found something very suspicious. Chaim Noe, an Ultra-Orthodox rabbi in Tannersville, had instructed his entire congregation to re-register with the Green Party and vote for Amedore in the primary, thus insuring his win.
What was the rabbi’s motivation? In addition to his religious duties, Noe operated a summer camp and had been cited by the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation for illegally dumping the camp’s waste into the Schoharie Creek. After doing Amedore the primary ballot favor, the citations went away. Even more disturbing was that most of the Tannersville addresses were summer homes and most of congregation listed alternate addresses in Brooklyn. While I didn’t have the resources to prove it, I’m fairly confident that the part-time summer residents were not qualified to vote in Greene County and many were registered in both Greene County and Brooklyn.
This was election corruption and possible fraud at its most blatant. Did anyone care? Not really. The Green Party primary for SD46 was not at the top of the NYS Board of Elections watch list and I was unable to generate a investigation, even by the press.
That’s a “Who’s Who” list of active and retired police and firemen. Looks like the result of heavy, isolated recruiting.
Interesting. Apparently the fire department employees are joining the WFP in Schenectady as well.
The Green Party