In New York State, to qualify for automatic ballot access, a party must have received at least 50,000 votes in the previous gubernatorial election. A party must run a gubernatorial candidate (as well as a lieutenant governor candidate, although this portion has been ignored in the past) to be eligible for automatic ballot access; if 50,000 voters vote for that candidate on their party line, they have qualified. Parties are allowed to cross-endorse candidates, whose votes would be accumulated under electoral fusion, but any parties must cross-endorse both the governor and lieutenant governor candidates for fusion to apply. Parties that are already qualified must issue a Wilson Pakula if they cross-endorse someone registered in another already qualified party; there are no restrictions (other than the fact that the candidate must be eligible for office) on who can be nominated on a non-qualified ballot line, as these lines are determined by filing petitions.
For statewide and special elections, automatic ballot access means that no petitions have to be filed to gain access to a ballot line, and party organizations can endorse candidates through their own conventions (this does not apply to legislative candidates, who still must petition onto the ballot regardless of party endorsement, but are only required to collect a third of the signatures required of non-qualified parties). Qualified parties also are the only parties eligible to hold primary elections. In addition to determining whether they automatically qualify for the next 4 years, this also determines the order on the ballot.
In the 1994 election, the Democratic Party received the most votes, and so qualified to be first on the ballot for the next 4 years, even though their candidate, incumbent Governor Mario Cuomo lost. George Pataki beat him because he received more votes combined over all of his party lines.
In the 2002 election, 3 qualified parties failed to re-qualify. One of these, the Liberal Party, dates back to 1944, and became dormant as a result of this.
In the 2006 election, 5 parties received at least 50,000 votes, and qualified. They only nominated 2 candidates between them, and were the same five parties that gained qualified status from the previous election; other than the Republicans and Democrats switching places due to Eliot Spitzer's win, the other three parties were in the same order.
Parties that do not qualify automatically can petition their way onto the ballot. For statewide candidates, this requires 15,000 signatures. For example, the Libertarian Party, despite having never registering 50,000 votes in a gubernatorial election, has nonetheless been on the state ballot with a gubernatorial candidate in every election since 1974 because of this process. Unless the gubernatorial candidate receives 50,000 votes, said parties must petition their way onto the ballot for every election they seek, a regulation that qualified parties do not need to follow. These parties also are not eligible to run primaries, and the first person to submit 15,000 signatures automatically gets the party line. (Sam Sloan attempted to use this tactic to take the 2010 Libertarian gubernatorial nomination from party nominee Warren Redlich, but did not have enough signatures to successfully do so.)