How New York's Election Law Prevents Millions From Voting In Primaries

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Voting Rights are Primary

Independent voters in New York City are coming together on Primary Day, June 24th, but not to play the role we are typically cast in – as “swing voters.” 

Instead, we will be working to make ourselves visible at a time when we are most invisible. That’s because New York is a closed primary state in which independent voters, 2.4 million in New York state and nearly 1 million in New York City, are barred from participating in primary elections.

This is the plight of NY independents: we are first class taxpayers when it comes to funding the administration of elections, but second class voters who are prohibited from participating in primaries which are more often than not, the definitive election.

A national campaign coordinated by is dramatizing this flaw in our democracy with independent voter groups holding informational pickets at poll sites around the country. With the latest Gallup poll showing 42% of Americans consider themselves independent, this issue is all the more urgent. Groups have already picketed in Ohio, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Nevada, Kentucky, and New Jersey.

Primary elections are a critical juncture in the democratic process and often the most competitive where local elections are decided.  In the hotly contested 13th Congressional District (Harlem, Washington Heights, and the South Bronx) over 72,000 residents, 16% of the electorate, are registered as independent or minor party voters and are excluded from the June 24th primary which will surely determine who the next Congressperson is.  This election practice is unfair and truly undemocratic.

Independents are fighting back; forming state based associations of independents, launching legal challenges and supporting initiatives to bring about nonpartisan primaries.  Recently, a lawsuit was brought in U.S. Federal Court in Newark on behalf of eight NJ voters, and the Independent Voter Project.  The suit is demanding that every voter should have an equal and meaningful vote at every stage of the state-funded election process.  We are watching the case closely.

On Primary Day, New York City independents will be making ourselves seen and heard in new ways by holding informational pickets at top poll sites in the 13th Congressional District. A change is clearly needed – so that the voices of millions of independent voters who do not now have full voting rights can be heard.  We hope to lead the way to a government less hampered by partisanship and more able to move ahead with the business of the country.


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