Monthly Archives: April 2016

New York Had the Second-Lowest Voter Turnout So Far This Election Season

In The Nation, Ari Berman takes a look at New York’s primary last week:

 “3 million New Yorkers, 27 percent of the electorate, didn’t get to vote because they weren’t registered with the Democratic or Republican parties, and the deadline to change party affiliation was an absurd 193 days before the April 19 primary, as I reported on Monday.

As a result, only 19.7 percent of eligible New Yorkers cast a ballot, the second-lowest voter turnout among primary states after Louisiana, according to elections expert Michael McDonald. There were over 900 calls from frustrated voters to the Election Protection Coalition, more than in any other primary state.

These problems could have been avoided if New York had electoral reforms like same-day voter registration and early voting. Comptroller Stringer recently proposed a number of good policies that would make it easier to vote and have been introduced in the New York legislature. Hopefully the problems in the primary will lead to legislative action.

In a tweet today, Jerry Skurnik points out that the numbers mentioned in the article may be off a bit because New York only permits enrolled persons to vote. He also points out that turnout among registered Democrats was 31% and 32% for Republicans.



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Social Explorer Project Named Best Law Website In The 20th Annual Webby Awards

Andy Beveridge’s Social Explorer has been named the Best Law Website in the 20th Annual Webby Awards. Hailed as the “Internet’s highest honor” by The New York Times, The Webby Awards, presented by the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences (IADAS), is the leading international award honoring excellence on the Internet.

Social Explorer’s Threat to Representation of Children and Non-Citizens project examines the potential impact that the Evenwel v. Abbott Supreme Court case could have had on representation around the nation (and still might depending on further legal challenges). The plaintiffs argued that redistricting should be based on the number of voters (citizens of voting age) instead of all residents. Professor and demographer Andrew Beveridge analyzed the effects of such a change in his special report. The award winning data visualization website Social Explorer (Beveridge is the co-founder and president) developed the companion interactive tool to illustrate how state legislative and congressional districts would need to change and which groups would be most affected.

“Social Explorer has set the standard for innovation and creativity on the Internet,” said David-Michel Davies, Executive Director of The Webby Awards. “This award is a testament to the skill, ingenuity, and vision of its creators.”

“Representation has been fundamental to US Democracy since the nation’s founding, and the Evenwel case posed a true threat. Our tool, which was used by hundreds of news outlets, community organizations and political groups, made it possible to bring that fact home to communities across the country,” said Beveridge.”

Dr. Beveridge is a leading redistricting expert who has worked on many New York State and local redistricting plans as well as working as an expert witness  in several redistricting and voting rights cases.

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De Blasio Probe Highlights NY Loopholes: Sugarman Report Text Linked Here

Gannett’s Jon Campbell takes a look at New York’s campaign finance loopholes:

“A criminal investigation surrounding New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s team confirms what was already one of Albany’s worst-kept secrets: Its campaign-finance laws are lax.

New York’s campaign-contribution limits are easy to get around, and politicians and political bosses aren’t shy about doing it.

The state’s limits on donations to political candidates and parties are some of the highest in the nation, and critics say they contain so many loopholes that render them nearly obsolete.

Now, the probe centered on de Blasio and his allies — which focuses on their efforts to raise money for state Senate candidates in the Hudson Valley and Rochester — will put the state’s campaign-finance restrictions to the test. And government-reform advocates are hoping it might be enough to force change.”

The original NYS BOE report by attorney Rise Sugarman can be read via this link to the NY Daily News:

(Scroll to the bottom of the article)

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Democrat Kaminsky With Solid Lead In State Senate Race

In Newsday, Robert Brodsky  updates  on the paper ballot count in Nassau County’s race to succeed the convicted Dean Skelos:

“Democrat Todd Kaminsky had an apparently insurmountable lead over Republican Christopher McGrath as the Nassau Board of Elections ended the second day of its count of paper ballots from last week’s special election to fill the seat of former state Sen. Dean Skelos, Nassau’s Democratic elections commissioner said.

With 811 of the of the nearly 3,200 absentee, affidavit and emergency ballots left to be counted, Kaminsky on Thursday had a 952-vote lead over McGrath, said Commissioner David Gugerty.

The campaigns also have raised 61 objections to individual ballots — largely concerning the postmark date of absentee ballots — leaving a total of 872 ballots left in play. Gugerty said he expects the board to complete its count Friday.”


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Sampson, Elliott Mount Write-In Campaigns For Buffalo School Board

Jay Rey reports in the Buffalo News:

“at least two of the three candidates knocked off the ballot for Tuesday’s Buffalo School Board election are waging write-in campaigns.

The third is deciding whether it’s still worth giving it a try amid all the turmoil surrounding this year’s contentious elections for the six district seats on the nine-member board.

The most vigorous write-in campaign is likely to come from board President James M. Sampson, who didn’t have enough valid signatures to make the ballot in his West District. He challenged the ruling by the Erie County Board of Elections in court Wednesday, but fell short.”

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Manhattan Lawyer Files Class Action Suit After He Was Blocked From Voting In New York Primary As An Independent

Barbara Ross and Larry McShane report in the NY Daily News on a new lawsuit challenging the state’s registration rules:

“Mark Warren Moody, in a class action suit, wants the current voter eligibility regulations for primaries tossed out after he lost a chance to pull the lever in New York’s April 19 presidential primary.

Moody, a registered independent, was blocked from voting in the Democratic and Republican contests where Trump and former First Lady Hillary Clinton trounced their rivals.


In New York State, the party-switching deadline for the April primary was Oct. 9, 2015 — more than six months earlier. Registered Democrats and Republicans are the only ones eligible to vote in their party’s primaries, with no crossing of party lines permitted. Independents can’t vote at all.

Moody charges that was an unnecessary impediment and contends his lawsuit will make election law great again.

“Requiring New Yorkers to choose party affiliation at any point in advance of casting a vote in any primary election for public office violates the New York State Constitution,” he charged Wednesday in his 10-page Manhattan Supreme Court filing.”

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Political Housekeeping Accounts Grow

Housekeeping accounts, from contributions that help run the party machinery pay the rent and staff, comes under scrutiny by Common Cause NY.

Rick Karlin reports in the Times Union:

“Contributions to housekeeping accounts for Democrats and Republicans alike have hit record levels in recent years, according to at report from the good government group Common Cause of New York.

Almost $30 million went into housekeeping accounts from 2013-2015 averaging nearly $10 million annually, according to state Board of Electionsdata. That’s up from about $8.2 million per year between 2006 and 2012. The money is intended for party-building or operating expenses not directly related to campaigns.

Much of the money comes from limited liability companies, which don’t need to disclose their donors in filings. LLCs are also subject to the $150,000 aggregate contribution limit for individuals, rather than the $5,000 corporate limit per year.”

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Kaminsky Widens Lead Over McGrath In State Senate Race

Robert Brodsky reports in Newsday:

“the Nassau County Board of Elections on Wednesday began to count paper ballots in last week’s special election between Democratic Assemb. Todd Kaminsky and Republican Christopher McGrath to fill the seat of former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos.

Election officials counted about 25 percent of the nearly 3,200 absentee, affidavit and emergency ballots in the 9th Senate District race. They came primarily from Long Beach, said Democratic Elections Commissioner David Gugerty.

By day’s end, Kaminsky, who already held an unofficial 780-vote lead over McGrath, had increased his margin by about 200 votes, said John Ryan, counsel for Republican Elections Commissioner Louis Savinetti.”

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The de Blasio Fundraising Investigation Reaches Western New York

From Ryan Whelan in Capital Tonight:

“Republicans in western New York are filing complaints to the Board of Elections to have the races from 2014 in their areas investigated for wrongdoing as well. 

The investigation centers around money funneled to candidates thought the Putnam and Ulster County Democratic Committees but also makes mention of candidates Ted O’Brien in Monroe County and Marc Panepinto in Erie.

“No formal complaint had been made and therefore they weren’t examining it,” said Monroe County Republican Chairman Bill Reilich. “We’re pursuing that.”

Reilich’s committee said Wednesday it wants the Board of Elections to investigate the O’Brien race as well.

“The Republican Party will just send a letter to the Board of Elections asking them to review it and if there’s no wrongdoing then so be it and if there’s an issue then we all need to play on the same fair playing field,” Reilich said.”


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Conflict of Interest, Leaked Memo Cloud De Blasio Accusations

In Gotham Gazette, David Howard King  writes:

“The revelation that it was Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s chosen enforcement counsel at the Board of Elections who sparked an investigation into Mayor BIll de Blasio’s fundraising activities, in the mayor’s 2014 effort to flip control of the state Senate, has raised a number of questions about motivation and independence.

De Blasio has asserted his innocence, saying that he and his associates followed the letter of the law. He and his lawyer have used Risa Sugarman, the BOE enforcement counsel who used to work for Cuomo, and the leak of her referral to investigators to discredit allegations that the fundraising he spearheaded broke election laws. Analysts say these arguments, in which de Blasio has repeatedly questioned Sugarman’s “motivations,” are at least somewhat effective because the governor has a long history of stacking state watchdog organizations, boards, and agencies with his friends, long-time employees, and political donors.

“There is pervasive conflict of interest under Governor Cuomo, including in the areas of ethics enforcement he has a hand in,” said John Kaehny, executive director of Reinvent Albany. “Risa Sugarman should not be the enforcement counsel at BOE, just as Seth Agata should not be executive director of JCOPE. They are seen by many as Cuomo loyalists, not independent actors. Their relationship to Cuomo colors everything they do, including investigating the governor’s political foes.”

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