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Friday, March 19, 2010
Deferred Enrollment, Switching Party Affiliation and Reordering the Political Parties in New York
Something very strange is happening in New York, where the state Republican chairman, Nixon son-in-law Ed Cox, has just endorsed a Democratic Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy for governor. Levy will be (or so he says) switching his party registration to Republican.
One little-known note: Levy's party affiliation does not take effect until next year. Under New York's Election Law, there is a practice known as "deferred enrollment" under which a registered voter who is already enrolled in an officially-recognized party can switch parties, but the switch is not effective until after the following October (four weeks before the general election). This practice (upheld many years ago by the Supreme Court in its 1970 case Rosario v. Rockefeller) prevents Levy from voting in the Republican primary for himself, signing his own Republican petition (that is, if he doesn't get enough support at the party convention) or even carrying his own Republican petition. In fact, Levy could vote in this year's Democratic party primary -- although there would be grounds for that party to disaffiliate him under the Election Law. (For election lawyers like me, this is kinda fun!)
There will be blood...er, consequences, for the political parties. Assuming the Conservative Party nominates Rick Lazio (who ought to be humiliated by the Republican establishment rejecting a former U.S. Senate candidate), Levy wins a Republican primary and Carl Paladino runs as an independent (perhaps forming a "Tea Party" slate which could then qualify as an official party if he gets 50,000 votes statewide), the right-of-center vote will be split three ways. (I'm not even counting other "constitutionalist" or "libertarian" groups which might run someone.)
Patronage -- including representation in boards of elections -- could be affected by how these candidates fare against each other. Which party's candidate would get more votes? One scenario would have the "real Republican" running as a Conservative beating out the Democrat-turned-Republican (in which case the Conservatives would become Row B), and Paladino could spearhead a new party.
Potential loser: The Independence Party. As it becomes clearer with each day that Andrew Cuomo is not merely the presumptive Democratic candidate for Governor, but the next Governor, any need he might feel to seek or accept the Independence Party's endorsement will diminish. Cuomo will in all probability have the Working Families Party's endorsement. The Indys will likely choose one of Levy, Lazio or Paladino, but the problem is that all of those candidates will concentrate on their "major" party, and there's no guarantee any of them would want their endorsement either.
Eric Dixon is a lawyer in New York City who handles litigation, investigative matters and political matters. He can be reached at 917-696-2442.