At the height of its power, the Independence Party in New York had registered more than 400,000 voters in the state. For years, political observers, elected officials and candidates suspected many of those voters were duped into enrolling in a party when they meant to register as "blanks" -- no party affiliation at all.
A law signed this week by Gov. Kathy Hochul is meant to put an end to that.
The new law will restrict the use of "independence" or "independent" from the name of a ballot line in order to reduce the chances of confusing voters into registering for a party when they mean to be true registered independent voters.
A large enrollment for the Independence Party in New York enabled it to leverage real sway with candidates who sought their ballot line in general elections. Candidates in New York can run on multiple ballot lines.
"A party known for preying on independently-minded New York voters to inflate its rolls should have no place in our democratic system," said state Sen. James Skoufis, a Democrat from the Hudson Valley who sponsored the measure with Assemblyman Jeff Dinowitz of the Bronx.
Independence and independent are not the only words barred from a ballot line's use: "American," "United States," "National," "New York State," and "Empire State" are also prohibited.
"Our number one priority when conducting elections should be to provide clear and accurate information to voters," Dinowitz said. "For an organized political party to call themselves ‘Independence’ when in reality they are frequently working hand-in-hand with major political parties, I just think that’s not right. I’m glad we could take this step to ensure that voters who wish to register without party affiliation are actually doing so."
As for the Independence Party itself, the party failed to meet new requirements for retaining its ballot status in New York and as of 2020 is defunct. Earlier this year, Republicans sought to revive the name for Rep. Lee Zeldin to run on, but failed to do so.