Monthly Archives: October 2015

Times Union: For A Fair Ballot Process

The Times Union wants to make it easier to run for office in New York State. In an editorial running in today’s edition, the paper argues that “the rules – which should do nothing more and nothing less than ensure fair elections – have become so complex that otherwise legitimate candidates are shut out of the democratic process. The state Legislature needs to devise a more honest and simple system in which citizens don’t have to be election law scholars – or have friends in high places – just to run for office.”

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Board of Elections Co-Chair Questions $10G Annual Payments

Democratic State Board of Elections Commissioner Doug Kellner “questioned $10,000 in annual payments the board made for most of a decade without getting any work in return.”

As reported by Chris Bragg in the Times Union, “Douglas Kellner, a Democratic appointee to the four-member panel, questioned the board’s financial relationship since 2007 with a nonprofit called the New York State Dispute Resolution Association, whose hiring stemmed from the 2002 federal Help America Vote Act. The law was passed in the wake of the controversial 2000 presidential election.”

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Advance Group Fined $26k By Schneiderman, Campaign Finance Board

Chris Bragg reports in the Times Union “Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and the New York City Campaign Finance Board announced $25,800 in total penalties on Thursday morning stemming from a joint investigation into the activities of the consulting firm the Advance Group during the 2013 New York City elections.

Under New York City campaign finance rules, candidates who enrolled in the city’s taxpayer matching funds program during the 2013 elections were subject to a hard spending cap. But the joint investigation found that the firm, led by founder Scott Levenson, had been the main consultant both for city candidates, and for deep-pocketed outside groups spending on behalf of those same candidates.”

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Evenwel Could Have Tremendous Impact on New York Senate & Assembly Districts

Today’s New York Times editorializes on how two Texas voters in the Evenwel case are challenging the use of overall population for redistricting. “They want to force the state to count only the number of voters in apportioning districts. This approach, besides being at odds with long-accepted practice, is both inflexible and impractical. The census, which provides the data that most states use, counts people, not voters,”

The Times editorial continues,  “the plaintiffs know that getting rid of a system that counts all people would hurt Democratic-leaning urban areas with large, noncitizen Latino populations, and would favor rural and conservative areas where more Republicans live. In other words, the suit is an effort to transfer political power from Democratic to Republican regions. The Supreme Court has never required that states follow this or any other specific method of apportionment, and there is no reason to start now.”

The CUNY Mapping Service has created an excellent interactive map website enabling readers to compare legislative district populations by overall population and Citizen Voting Age Population (CVAP). Should the Evenwel  plaintiffs succeed in having the U.S.Supreme Court rule that either voting age population  (VAP), the numbers impacting state legislative districts would be comprehensive and would shift districts both within counties and regionally from the downstate metropolitan area to upstate New York.

Under the set of legislative lines enacted in 2012, the average size of each Senate district is 307,356 persons. An Assembly district averages 129,039 persons. The overall deviation from the largest to smallest Assembly districts is 7.94% (many upstate districts are overpopulated; downstate districts are underpopulated, but all are within the overall limit of 10%).

Assembly District 84 (now represented by Democrat Carmen Arroyo) has 126,411 residents according to the 2010 census. If the district was based on citizen population estimates provided by the Census Bureau (and not using the decennial census as a baseline but a mid-decade estimate), the 84th district drops to 57,800 persons (a loss of 68,611 residents for the redistricting population base).

Assembly district 114, represented by Republican Dan Stec, has a current population of 132,752. If the district population was based on CVAP, the population drops to 106,930 (a loss of only 25,822 residents).

From these two examples, it becomes easy to see how populations would shift from New York City (with large numbers of non-citizens and children) to more rural areas.

Note- the 2012 legislative lines enacted by the state were based on certifiable 2010 decennial census data. The CVAP data is based on population estimates determined by the Census Bureau using the American Community Survey.

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Cuomo Group Appeals Warren County WEP Decision

Over the weekend, Matthew Hamilton reported in the Times Union that “lawyers for a group backed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo that are still seeking control of the beleaguered third party submitted a brief Friday to go along with the latest appeal in the ongoing legal battle.

In appealing a state Supreme Court decision out of Warren County, the attorney team representing the party’s original apparatus appears to be focusing on who controls the party, not so much that a group of candidates were bounced from the line. Specifically, the attorneys argue that the justice who made the ruling ignored an earlier appellate court decision that, while somewhat ambiguous, bolstered their argument that if three groups challenge for control of the party, but only one has the necessary support of any of the party’s statewide candidates, then no conflict exists.”

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More on Evenwel: deBlasio Joins The Opposition

As covered last week on this blog, NYC Mayor Bill deBlasio has joined the fight in Evenwel v Abbott with an amicus brief. Jennifer Fermino writes about the brief in today’s New York Daily News “if successful, Evenwel vs. Abbott would dramatically change the political landscape in immigrant-rich communities like New York, because it would draw districts to include only eligible voters.”

Attorney General Eric Schniederman’s brief, filed on behalf of New York and 20 other states, argues that “within New York City, one Brooklyn state senate district has a much larger proportion of children (approximately 30% of its total population) than one Manhattan senate district (approximately 9% of its total population) because the Brooklyn district is more residential and home to religious communities that often have many children.”

I am excerpting from Bill Mahoney’s June 3 Politico New York analysis of how the Evenwel  case could have  additional serious implications for New York:

“This case has the potential to be the biggest since 1962’s Baker v. Carr,” said Jeffrey Wice, a fellow at SUNY Buffalo Law School who has worked with New York’s Senate Democrats on redistricting in the past.

Even if these appellants win, there are too many permutations of a possible decision to know what the results would be. But in any scenario, it is all but certain that a decision favorable to the appellants would provide a major new advantage to New York’s Republicans.

A decision requiring states to base districts on eligible voters could cost Democrats at least two seats. Numbers for some ineligible voters are not readily accessible—the Census Bureau’s 2010 American Community Survey provides estimated population totals for noncitizens and minors, but not for convicted felons—but an analysis of individuals who fall into at least one of these two tracked categories shows they overwhelmingly reside in parts of the state that are solidly Democratic. If they were removed from the rolls of people who are considered while drawing district lines, the percentage of districts drawn in liberal parts of New York would decrease.

Specifically, 38 percent of New York City residents are ineligible to vote due to age or citizenship status, compared to 33 percent of suburbanites and 25 percent of upstaters. The city already has larger-than-average districts in the Senate, since the lines were drawn by the Republican’s Majority Coalition, which wanted to reduce the number of Democratic strongholds: Districts that fall there currently have populations about 6 percent larger than those based upstate.

Since the changes in the redistricting process that were enacted between 2012 and 2014 require the state to preserve the cores of existing districts, it is fair to assume this ratio would remain fairly constant. If it does, the number of seats in New York City would fall from about 25.7 (some districts fall in both the Bronx and Westchester) to 23.3, a loss of over two seats. Upstate regions would gain the same number of districts; the suburbs would remain mostly unchanged.

Of course, partisan enrollment advantages do not guarantee one side’s victory. But the small number of Republican strongholds in New York City might remain safe. The seat held by Senator Andrew Lanza since 2007 (and Republican senator John Marchi for 50 years before him) falls on Staten Island, where the percentage of residents who are voting-age citizens is higher than in the state as a whole. The boroughs that would see the largest losses would be Queens and the Bronx.

While the Independent Democratic Conference has a presence in both of these, neither has elected a Republican senator in any of the past three general elections.

It is possible Democrats might be competitive in any new upstate districts, but the decreased weight of urban areas would make an increased presence in the region difficult.

If the court decides that lines should be drawn based on enrolled voters (rather than eligible voters), the end result would similarly prove advantageous to Republicans, as New York City would lose nearly three senate districts. In this scenario, however, the city’s suburbs on Long Island and in the lower Hudson Valley would gain nearly two districts. Since campaigns in these parts of the state are generally more competitive than elsewhere, Democrats could have a chance of offsetting at least some of their losses in New York City.

It is not inconceivable that courts could order the Legislature to reapportion at some point in the next few years. When the general criteria for legislative districts had its last significant change in 1964, New York State was ordered to draw new lines to be used in a 1965 election, resulting in three campaigns for every legislative seat in a three-year period. While a repeat of this scenario might be unlikely, it is not completely inconceivable there could be general elections for every state legislative district in 2016, 2017, and 2018.”

(author’s note- I assisted the Attorney General’s Office in preparing the state amicus brief)

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Hochul: Women’s Equality Party’s Future Not In Question Despite Court Battles

In the Times Union, Matthew Hamilton reports “Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul is adamant that the fledgling third party’s future isn’t in question.

“Not in my judgement,” she said following an event at the Watervliet Arsenal Thursday. “I believe the foundation, the premise behind this party to give women an additional voice in addition to the traditional parties was important. You had to be there with the governor and I speaking with hundreds and hundreds of women … at rallies all over this state last year who felt so empowered that they’re part of a movement to make sure candidates who want to run for office have to support women’s initiatives, women’s plans.”

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