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State Supreme Court Justice Joseph Torraca will decide next week whether the state Right to Life Party must collect petitions to keep its candidates on the ballot.

At stake is the party's designation as an official statewide party. Only parties that collect at least 50,000 votes for governor are allowed a permanent place on the November ballot.

Torraca heard arguments Friday about whether the party failed to properly notify the state Board of Elections of its choices for governor and three other statewide offices.

Because the party did not file a "certificate of designation," it nullified the results of its June 3 nominating convention, according to attorney Thomas Spargo.

Spargo is representing two Albany-area feminists, Heidi Jane Siegfried and Sue Stevens Larsen, who sued to block the names of Right to Life candidates from appearing on the ballot.

If Torraca agrees with their claim, the party will be forced to collect about 1,200 signatures from a total of 17 congressional districts to place those candidates on the ballot.

That can be accomplished, said Party Chairwoman Lena Harknett, pointing out that the party has more than 24,000 members statewide. But the party prefers to win this lawsuit, the Suffolk County resident said.

Supported by the state Board of Elections, Right to Life attorney Tom Vaughn argued that the lawsuit is invalid because Ms. Siegfried and Ms. Larsen are not members of the Right to Life party.

That only applies to candidates who challenge party designees, said Spargo, the former chief counsel to the state Republican Party. In his former position as counsel to the Senate Elections Committee, Spargo wrote many of the state's election laws.

Spargo said his clients have a right to sue because they are challenging documents filed with the state Board of Elections, not simply matters that concern the Right to Life party.

Spargo and Vaughn also sparred over whether paperwork for this lawsuit, as well as the party's designations, were filed on time. Torraca indicated that he will support Spargo's claim that the lawsuit was filed on time.

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