In New York, political parties become "official" when they run gubernatorial candidates who receive at least 50,000 votes on their ballot line. Gaining the ballot is a separate requirement: a statewide candidate must submit petitions with a minimum of 15,000 signatures from registered voters who did not sign a petition for any other gubernatorial candidate, and of these 15,000, at least 100 must come from each of at least 15 of the state's congressional districts. As such parties are not "official" when they are gathering signatures, they are considered "independent" bodies and the regular petition rules, limiting signers and witnesses to a petition to members of the candidate's political party, do not apply. (There is a complex, two-volume state Election Law which sets forth numerous other technical requirements far too cumbersome to recount here.)
New York has lost several "third" parties in recent years. The Right to Life, Liberal and Green Parties each had ballot status in the 1990s but each succumbed to the practice of almost always cross-endorsing major party candidates. This practice is blamed for the disillusionment among the parties' regulars, whose happiness is critical because an official political party needs to qualify candidates and needs its members (or notaries) to carry petitions. A political party whose rank-and-file members are unhappy with party leadership will have difficulty finding anyone to carry its petitions, qualifying its endorsed candidates for the ballot and eventually staying in business. The Liberal Party is perhaps the best example.
Conservative Party and Independence Party leaders may want to remember events of the past, in order to avoid becoming the next casualties.
Eric Dixon is an attorney in New York City who advises candidates and political committees on ballot access issues and corporate governance matters. Mr. Dixon is a non-partisan lawyer/consultant who has successfully managed several statewide petition drives for federal and state candidates, and advised on press relations and issue development. Mr. Dixon welcomes your comments and inquiries at 917-696-2442.