Monthly Archives: January 2016

Gerald Benjamin: Constitutional Commission Deserves Support

In the Times Union, our colleague Professor Gerald Benjamin from SUNY New Paltz makes the case that “Governmental reform arises from the joining of opportunity with preparation. That’s why Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s commitment in the 2016 State of the State message to appoint and recommend funding for an “… expert, nonpartisan commission to develop a blueprint” for a potential constitutional convention is his most important reform initiative this year.

Opportunity is in the offing. On Nov. 7, 2017, New Yorkers interested in cleaning up state government will find this question on the ballot: “Shall there be a convention to revise the constitution and amend the same?” To fully grasp the reason for this vote, required every 20 years since 1846, we need to go back to basics.”

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Governor Calls 4 Special Elections for April 19th 

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today issued a proclamation setting an April 19th special election date for the 59th, 62nd and 65th Assembly Districts, as well as the 9th Senate District. This date – which coincides with the presidential primary election in New York State – was chosen in order to both maximize voter turnout and minimize the cost to taxpayers.

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Assembly Elections Committee To Consider Merging Primaries

The Assembly Elections Committee will consider a bill to “merge the federal and state primaries into one date,, as reported by Nick Reisman this morning.

“A bill to merge the primaries for congressional elections — now slated for the end of June — with the September state and local party primary contests, will be before the Assembly Election Law Committee next week, according to an agenda released on Thursday. 
The measure comes as New York once again faces the costly prospect of three primaries, given the April 19 presidential primary for both Democrats and Republicans, “according to the article.

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Seeking To End Gerrymandering’s Enduring Legacy

Carl Hulse has an informative column in today’s New York Times on Elbridge Gerry and his imprint on modern day redistricting across the nation. It well worth a read.

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Early Voting: Cuomo Wants It; Counties Have Concerns

Jon Campbell reports in LoHud that Governor Cuomo included a  proposal to “make New York the 38th state in the country to allow early voting, in which a limited number of polling places are opened ahead of elections, freeing up voters from having to cast their ballot on a specific day.”

“But counties — which administer elections in New York — have their concerns, particularly when it comes to the added cost of opening polling places earlier than usual.

Stephen Acquario, executive director of the state Association of Counties, said the concept of early voting is a good one. But Cuomo’s proposal, he said, should be rejected unless the state agrees to cover’s the counties’ extra costs.

According to Cuomo’s office, the governor’s early-voting plan wouldn’t have an impact on counties for the state’s coming fiscal year, which runs from April through March. After that, the cost estimate is uncertain; Acquario said the state has estimated the cost at $3 million a year, though he believes it would be higher.”

 

 

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Rockefeller Institute Launches Constitutional Convention Educational Website

From a press release from the Rockefeller Institute (and please note, the Jaeckle Center at SUNY Buffalo Law School is partnering with the Rockefeller Institute here):
 As part of its multiyear educational campaign designed to promote awareness and understanding of the 2017 New York State Constitutional Convention referendum, the Rockefeller Institute in Albany, the State University of New York’s public policy research arm, today launched a Constitutional Convention web portal on its site. It can be found at www.rockinst.org/nys_concon2017/.

According to Institute officials, the new web portal offers citizens objective information on the background and history behind the constitutional convention; the timeline of the referendum and convention, if called by the voters; potential issues that might come up in a convention; available publications that describe past conventions; videos of related events; and links to electronic and print coverage on the subject.

The material on the site represents the collective nonpartisan educational efforts of the state’s foremost authorities on the New York State Constitution and the convention process. They are: Professors Peter Galie, formerly of Canisius College, and Gerald Benjamin of SUNY New Paltz; attorneys Henry M. Greenberg and Christopher Bopst; former NYS Assemblyman Richard Brodsky; and former state official Henrik Dullea. Full bios of this team of experts may be found at www.rockinst.org/nys_concon2017/pdf/bios.pdf.

The educational campaign, officially announced in September of 2015, brings the Rockefeller Institute together with its partners in the effort: the Government Law Center of Albany Law School; the Benjamin Center for Public Policy Initiatives at SUNY New Paltz; the League of Women Voters of New York State (LWVNYS); and the Siena College Research Institute (SRI).

“From the beginning of our work with our partners, we at the Rockefeller Institute have been committed to developing a web resource that captured the information voters would need to make informed decisions on the constitutional convention question. We would like to thank our colleague organizations and our extraordinary team of experts for their work, which helps ensure that an objective, nonpartisan source of information exists on this very important question,” stated Robert Bullock, deputy director of the Rockefeller Institute and coordinator of the Institute’s work on the constitutional convention.

“The Government Law Center of Albany Law School is pleased and honored to work with our partner organizations in this endeavor to ensure the people of the state of New York understand and appreciate the important issues at stake when the question of whether to hold a state constitutional convention is placed before the voters in November 2017. The voters must exercise their constitutional right fully informed of the issues at stake and the process by which any convention might take place,” said Ray Brescia, associate professor of law and director, Government Law Center, Albany Law School.

“The New York Constitution provides every generation of the state’s citizens with a chance to choose either to continue our system of government as it is, or to propose fundamental changes in how we govern ourselves. This is a rare opportunity, and an important one, but not one that is well understood. We are pleased to be involved in this effort to help assure that citizens understand, as fully as possible, the process they will consider, and the character, potential and implications of the choice they are offered when they vote in 2017 on whether or not to call a constitutional convention,” remarked Gerald Benjamin, director of the Benjamin Center at SUNY New Paltz.

“The League is proud to partner with these organizations and experts in educating voters on this important topic that comes up only every 20 years and most voters don’t know about or fully understand. A task as fundamental as revising our state government should not be left to the political insiders. Wide citizen engagement is essential,” said Dare Thompson, LWVNYS President.

“As an academically situated polling institute focused primarily on New York State, the Siena College Research Institute is dedicated to measuring public awareness and understanding of the constitutional convention process. We are happy to contribute to this collaborative effort to not only track public opinion but also to simultaneously keep the voters of New York informed on how their fellow citizens feel about this important component of our democracy, stated SRI Director Dr. Don Levy.

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Vote For Ex-Skelos Seat Could Force A Special Process

Newsday’s Dan Janison reports on the challenges posed by conducting a presidential primary and special election to replace convicted former Senator Dean Skelos on April 19.

Janison reports on the difficulties technology, separate Democratic and Republican primaries, the need for voting machines for disabled voters and software issues.

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Julie Lofstad Cleared For Conservative Ballot Line For Southampton Town Board

Rick Brand reports in Newsday that “a state Supreme Court justice has cleared the way for Democrat Julie Lofstad to have the Conservative Party ballot line in the Jan. 26 special election for Southampton Town Board.

The judge also ordered a rare court hearing to decide if Republican county elections Commissioner Nicholas LaLota should be sanctioned for filing a frivolous lawsuit

In his decision, Justice John Leo ruled that Republican candidate Richard Yastrzemski failed to file his lawsuit challenging Lofstad’s nomination within the 10-day limit. Leo also said Yastrzemski did not have standing because he is not a member of the Conservative Party, and could suffer no damage.”

The decision can be read here:Decision Index# 190-16

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Groups Offer Cautious Praise For Cuomo’s Ethics Fixes

The Times Union’s Casey Seiler covers Governor Cuomo’s announcement  “to stitch up the LLC loophole and a solid B for his effort to limit lawmakers’ outside income to 15 percent of their base pay, but gave him an incomplete grade on increasing transparency in the use of discretionary funds.

In a press conference at the Capitol, advocates from Common Cause New York, Citizens Union and the New York Public Interest Research Group said Cuomo’s commitment to these proposals would be tested in the budget negotiation that will play out over the next 10 weeks.

On the LLC loophole proposal, “We think the language the governor has proposed is strong and clear. … So please note that you can sometimes make good government groups happy,” said Susan Lerner, executive director of Common Cause.”

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Concerns of ‘Voter Fatigue’ As New York Schedules Four 2016 Election Days

Meg O’Connor provides an overview of New York’s complicated 2016 election calendar in the Gotham Gazette today. With special elections, a presidential primary, a congressional primary mandated to be on an earlier date by a federal court and the state primaries all coming before the November general election, 2016 may challenge voters interest. From the report:

“There will be at least four chances for New Yorkers to cast votes in 2016, with three different primary election days leading up to November’s general election. There will be a presidential primary vote in April; congressional primaries in June; and state legislative primaries in September. There will also be special elections sprinkled in to fill empty seats in the state Assembly and Senate.

On April 19, New Yorkers will vote in their party primaries for president; on June 28, it will be primaries for all 27 New York members of the House of Representatives, with Senator Chuck Schumer on the ballot, too; and on September 13, primaries for all 63 seats of the State Senate and all 150 seats of the State Assembly.

No date has been set by the governor yet for special elections in the state legislature, including those to replace former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, whose 2015 corruption convictions created vacancies.

In 2015, some New York City voters cast ballots for new district attorneys, judges, and city Council members, among others. By the time New Yorkers vote for president in November, it could be their sixth trip to the polls in 14 months. Or, for residents of District 17 in the South Bronx, their seventh trip, as the resignation of City Council member Maria del Carmen Arroyo means a special election to fill her seat will occurFebruary 23.

Frequent elections can result in voter fatigue, and diminish voter turnout. New York already has one of the lowest voter turnout rates in the country, with only 29 percent of eligible voters showing up to the polls to cast their votes in the 2014 general elections for state-level positions, including governor.”

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