The election laws for removing candidates from the ballot are too strict and should be changed, the good-government organization Common Cause New York said this week as Democrats search for ways of removing ex-Lt. Gov. Brian Benjamin from the June primary ballot.
Benjamin, who faces a five-count felony indictment stemming from fraud and bribery charges, has suspended his campaign and resigned from office. But he will continue to appear on the June ballot for the Democratic primary contest, facing former New York City Councilwoman Diana Reyna and activist Ana Maria Archila.
"This is a huge problem for the 6.4 million registered voters in the Democratic primary who will confront a ballot that does not reflect the reality of the field, and may end up throwing away their vote on a candidate who is not running for office," said Susan Lerner, the executive director of Common Cause New York. "It's simply wrong and misleading to present New Yorkers with a false choice. Centuries after Tammany Hall, it's time to finally change the law."
Benjamin can be taken off the ballot if he were to move out of state and be disqualified for holding elected office in New York.
Benjamin's continued presence on the ballot would leave voters dependent on individual campaigns, the media and personal networks to be told of any ballot changes. Election administrations and poll workers cannot inform them of the change in a candidate's status, either, the group said.
At the same time, Benjamin's ballot status will "feed the narrative" that New York's elections only work for a select few, the group said.
For now, a bill that would address the issue is unlikely to be approved in time for when voting begins in June. The proposal would remove a candidate from the ballot if the person has received a life-threatening illness, faces criminal charges or if they have resigned from the office they are running for on the ballot.
Gov. Kathy Hochul, who faces the prospect of running without a preferred running mate in her bid for a full term, has acknowledged the window for removing Benjamin is a narrow one, but said in a radio interview this week it's being reviewed.