so what did happen in New York?

Steven Welzer
3 min readJun 16, 2024

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I had previously written that the Jill-Stein-onto-the-ballot petition drive in New York State was crucial for the gravitas of the campaign.

So here’s what happened and what I think it means:

The technical threshold was 45,000 signatures. The difficulty was to collect that many signatures in just six weeks. Howie Hawkins, surveying ballot access petition signature requirements in other states and even other countries, concluded that what Andrew Cuomo, near the end of his term, put in place in order to spite some third parties constitutes the hardest criteria in the world. No independent candidate or third party had achieved it until this year. 45,000 is a lot, but the idea of collecting that many, plus a buffer, in just six weeks is ridiculous.

The truth is that petition gatherers can’t possibly know that every signer is really registered to vote, is really writing down exactly what the registration lists show as their full name and current address, is really writing legibly enough for the Division of Elections clerks to discern the information, etc. etc. etc. Upon challenge a good percentage of the signatures can be invalidated for any of those reasons. A very good petitioner might get 80% verifiable signatures. A typical petitioner might get 60% verifiable signatures. A lackadaisical petitioner might get 40% verifiable signatures. So the truth of the New York State situation was that a campaign needed to hand in 90,000 signatures (in six weeks)!

An all-volunteer effort can’t come close. A campaign needs to hire petitioning firms for a task like that. The RFK campaign has so much money (from Nicole Shanahan) that they hired up most of the available paid petitioners. In doing so they jacked up the price-per-signature. The Jill Stein and Cornel West and Libertarian Party campaigns then had to rely mostly on volunteers.

RFK handed in 135,000 signatures.

Somewhat sadly, Jill’s petition drive wound up with 42,000 signatures.

Sadly because: If they had gotten 45,000, though they would have had no chance of actually getting on the ballot (because only 30,000 or 35,000 would be validated after the inevitable “Democratic” Party challenge), at least they would have had standing in court to raise a ruckus about the injustice of the criteria.

But, anyway . . .

42,000 from an almost-all-volunteer effort was actually pretty extraordinary. By basis of comparison (re: other almost-all-volunteer efforts): The Libertarian Party petition drive handed in 4,000 signatures and the Cornel West petition drive handed in 3,000 signatures.

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RFK’s campaign is the most significant independent campaign since Ross Perot in 1992. In both cases huge amounts of money were/are available. Perot got almost 20% of the vote in November 1992. There’s a chance RFK will get that much. Some campaign like that will be notable in history as shattering our terribly constraining duopolistic electoral system.

In the wake of 1992 Perot tried to start a new significant party (the Reform Party) but he had no talent in that direction. Maybe RFK will start up a new enduringly significant third party. Cornel West (following Nick Brana, Rocky Anderson, Tony Mazzocchi, Joel Rogers, Ron Daniels, John Hagelin, etc.) has already seen how difficult that endeavor is.

Meanwhile, the Stein campaign’s relative success in New York State shows the potential of the Green Party to keep becoming more and more significant. An issue is that the Greens are very grassrootsy and it’s a struggle to get any one of them to fork over a hundred dollars to support the party or one of its campaigns. They give $15 sometimes, $35 sometimes. That’s nice, but.

Maybe we can get Shanahan to show us some love.

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Steven Welzer

The editor of Green Horizon Magazine, Steve has been a movement activist for many years (he was an original co-editor of DSA’s “Ecosocialist Review”).