Election Reform Bills Regarding Opportunity to Ballot Petitions Signed by Governor Cuomo

Two bills that promise to reform the Opportunity to Ballot Petition process in New York State elections were recently signed into law by Governor Andrew Cuomo. Bill A6714/S5475, sponsored by Assemblywoman Sandy Galef (Westchester, Putnam) and Senator Rachel May (Onondaga, Madison, Oneida), and bill A5219/S5180A, sponsored by Assemblywoman Sandy Galef and Senator Shelley Mayer (Westchester) both bring much needed clarity to the process.

The Opportunity to Ballot Petition (OTBP) allows candidates the option to primary a political party line if they have not received the party endorsement by promoting a write-in candidate opportunity. As a part of the OTBP at least three members of the party must be listed in a Committee to Receive Notices (CTRN). A5219/S5180A requires that individuals who have been nominated to serve on the Committee to Receive Notices on an Opportunity to Ballot Petition formally acknowledge their appointment. If the nominated individual fails to accept their appointed position, the nomination will be null and void. A6714/S5475 gives those appointed as members access to judicial relief, ensuring fairness in ballot access and elections.

Currently, individuals selected to serve on a Committee to Receive Notices are not required to sign a formal acceptance letter. At times, they are not even aware that their name appears on the petition. If they do know, they are not always aware of what the petition is for, or the responsibilities that come with being named to the committee. Should they discover that they have been appointed to a CTRN, their only recourse in being removed is to take legal action. These new reforms ensure that those nominated to a CTRN are given formal notice, and allows these committee members the same rights as the candidate to legal redress and the capacity to bring forth proceedings.

Assemblywoman Galef said, “Shortly after receiving the Women’s Equality Party endorsement in my 2016 election, an Opportunity to Ballot Petition was circulated inappropriately. Unbeknownst to them, three women who were registered in the Women’s Equality Party were named on the petition as members of the Committee to Receive Notices. This fraudulent petition led to a lawsuit in Albany County Court, where it was eventually invalidated. These laws help further our aims to keep the Opportunity to Ballot process honest and fair, so that similar situations do not occur again in future elections.”

State Senator Shelley B. Mayer said, “This new set of campaign and election reforms creates greater accountability and transparency. I am glad to sponsor S.5180A to require individuals to formally accept being listed on the Committee to Receive Notices (CTRN) in order for the candidate to file an Opportunity to Ballot Petition. With this new law, we put an end to the abuse of the Opportunity to Ballot mechanism. Thank you to Assemblywoman Sandy Galef, my colleagues, and Governor Andrew Cuomo, for working toward fair and honest elections in New York State.”

State Senator Rebecca May said, “New York is notorious for making elections difficult to understand -- both for voters and for candidates. I am proud of the slew of elections reforms we were able to pass this year. This bill will create a more transparent and fair set of rules for candidates looking to get their name on the ballot, ensuring all participants have access to full information. Thank you to the Governor for signing it today and taking one more step to make our democracy easier to participate in.”

A5219/S5180A was signed as Chapter 456 and will take effect immediately. A6714/S5475 was signed as Chapter 440, and will take effect on December 15th, 2019.