Dinowitz/Skoufis Bill to Prohibit Misuse of ‘Independence’ in State Party Names Is Signed into Law

The legislation from State Senator James Skoufis and Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz adds the words “independence” and “independent” to the existing list of words which political parties in New York cannot include in their name.

ALBANY, NY – Voters across the state of New York have long expressed confusion about registering as independent voters, but soon that confusion will be eliminated. A new law sponsored by Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz and State Senator James Skoufis (A1819A) will prohibit the words “independence” and “independent” from being used in the names of political parties in New York.

New York has an existing list of words that are prohibited from usage by political parties, including “American,” “United States,” “National,”, “New York State,” and “Empire State.” The intent of this list is to ensure that voters are not confused by party names when registering to vote or casting their ballot, however media reports have revealed that a substantial number of would-be unaffiliated voters mistakenly registered as part of the Independence Party.

The Independence Party has long played an impactful role in elections throughout New York, frequently garnering thousands of votes in certain races. In 2020, there were more than one hundred state legislative candidates which ran under the Independence Party line — the vast majority of whom also ran on other party lines through New York’s fusion voting system.

This law, which was signed into law by Governor Kathy Hochul on December 9 and takes effect on January 1, will require the so-called Independence Party to choose a new name which does not mislead voters into thinking they are registering as independent voters.

State Senator James Skoufis (D-Hudson Valley) said: “A party known for preying on independently minded New York voters to inflate its rolls should have no place in our democratic system. I'm grateful for Assemblyman Dinowitz’s partnership on this important issue -- voters have a right to remain unaffiliated and this new law ensures this shadow party can never take away that right.”

Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz (D-Bronx) said: “Our number one priority when conducting elections should be to provide clear and accurate information to voters. 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. Thank you to Governor Hochul for her signature and for State Senator James Skoufis for his strong leadership on this issue in the State Senate.”