Monday, July 21, 2014

Tell us something we don't know

From The Forum:

As many political experts have pointed out, the questions surrounding the long-standing dominance and subsequent effects of party politics have never been easy to answer – perhaps because they are as varied and complex as Queens itself.

Some in the borough contended that dominant parties make it more difficult for political neophytes to enter the fray while others said that the traditional political machines have made strides to better represent Queens’ diverse and ever-growing population.

“Newcomers to politics often find it challenging to mount competitive campaigns for state elections due to the difficulty of raising funds without institutional support,” said Rachael Fauss, director of public policy for Citizens Union (CU). “The backing of the party continues to play a large role in elections, often making or breaking campaigns for office. And absent reforms to the state’s campaign finance system, voters will continue to have few choices at the polls.”

In 2011, a 22-year-old Queens student’s quest to run as an independent for retiring Assemblywoman Nettie Mayersohn’s seat was dashed when the city’s board of elections ruled that a technicality invalidated more than 1,500 signatures the student had collected. The party nomination was ultimately given to Michael Simanowitz, a former aide to Mayersohn.

In fact, statistics from CU underscored that when comparing state elections with city elections, voters have fewer choices, due to the strength of the city’s public matching system.

Some of the troubling stats showed that 21 percent of all state legislative contests in New York City went uncontested in both the primary and general elections in four cycles between 2006 and 2012 while only 8 percent of races were uncontested for the City Council during the three cycles between 2005 and 2013.

And, in primaries with incumbents, fewer than 20 percent of state legislative primaries in the city had three or more candidates from 2006 to 2012, while 59 percent of city council primaries had three or more candidates from 2005 to 2013.


georgetheatheist said...

1500 names knocked off?!?! How does one avoid getting bumped off via ballot "technicalities"? You've got to cross the "t's" and dot the "i's" in a certain manner? Print instead of write? Spell out street addresses without abbreviations? Et cetera. Is there a primer for future potential candidate?

Jon Torodash said...

Some likely possibilities, George, are:

1) Petition forms of the wrong color were used given the candidate's party.
2) The witness statement was not filled out correctly.
3) Signatories either did not belong to the party or had already signed prior for a competing candidate.
4) Improper binding / cover sheet.

There are other possibilities, but there is a primer. It's an annoying, time-consuming, and expensive, but not really an overly complicated process.

georgetheatheist said...

Thanks for that info. "Overly complicated"? Still seems complicated though to me. I still wonder why the 22-year old Mayersohn contender had 1500 signatures declared invalid.

Anonymous said...

NYC's Democrat Party domination has done wonders for it for the last 75 years, similar to Detroit, Philly and Chicago!

Jon Torodash said...

George, You are right that it's definitely more complicated than it has to be. Technology could help, but it invariably becomes a money pit for any candidate, no matter how frugal he or she is, unless there are a lot of volunteers ready to put in long hours.

Signature challenges are a primary means whereby veteran politicians can knock outsiders out of the running. Ruben Wills did so successfully in D28 back in 2009 with fisticuffs and in 2013, and there was a stir in D7 with one of the candidates that I heard about. It's hard to say without getting the documentation from the BOE what sunk Mayersohn. The challenge is entirely a legal one, which can become a full-blown battle with lawyers and expert testimony. This is probably why when Spitzer began collecting only 4 days before they were all due, he paid a king's ransom in order to garner 10x the required amount so that Stringer wouldn't even think of wasting his time at that juncture. And this may in fact be common. There is also a window in which to file a motion that the signatures are invalid, so mustering the man-power to go through the evidence would itself not be worth it in most cases. Sometimes, when you're caught you can pass the buck.

A more underdog-friendly guide which all potential candidates should know about is here.

georgetheatheist said...

Thanks again. See readers? The Queens Crap blog site is s-o-o-o educational!

But really, Jon Torodash, "gathering" signatures in this digital age is s-o-o-o analog, no? Does one have to be a citizen to register or will that new municipal ID card suffice?


Mike Francesa said...

Somehow I find it unlikely that the government would actually check one signature let alone 1500 when they barely do any work in the first place.

Jon Torodash said...

Thanks for your kind words, George. I figured, having gone through the process myself, that there might be a few Queenscrap readers out there who have toyed with the idea to run and might be interested in my experience.

Danny Dromm has been at the forefront of the push to give non-citizen residents in NYC - even illegal ones - the right to vote in municipal elections under the principle of "taxation without representation;" his failure (as a former social studies teacher, no less!) to note that this statement was used by American colonists who were British citizens, surprises me. (At least this is how I learned it.)

To answer your question directly, any person registered to vote in the state under a party can collect signatures for a petitioner of that party. Any registered voter in the state at all can collect for an independent. Technology could help things dramatically if each voter were issued an ID number, as similar systems exist for property registration under STAR. Voters could then cast a petition signature for their preferred candidate.

But of course, you'll have to deal with the usual luddite suspects to implement something along these lines, as well as the voter ID opponents, for whom this system would represent a clear step in the voter ID direction.

Anonymous said...

Jon some of the strongest voices against voter ID are supportive of a municipal ID at the same time. They are also concerned that the NYC ID will be seen as an illegal immigrant card by many. So have NYC start a voter ID program, one where the NYC ID is the ID used to vote. On the back end you could validate voter eligibility, it would be a simple matter of seeing if the ID on a ballot or petition was eligible in the district, or to vote at all, and if not it would be discarded.

Anonymous said...

Many businesses used to give time off to employees for voting. Today, as the 8 hour workday has bitten the dust, so has time off for civic duty. Queens is such a mess because of the long commutes on top of long workdays leaving little time to devote to civic duty, even if one understood one had a civic duty, which is a cultural problem.

Jon Torodash said...

NY State law is clear (p. 91) that voting in NY State is for US citizens only. The NYC identification card is not a proof of citizenship. As a district of NY State, my understanding is that neither NYC nor any of its boroughs can unilaterally modify these requirements for municipal elections as Daniel Dromm implies by drafting a Council bill.

The voter registration form requires a signed affidavit of citizenship. The NYC ID card may be used to satisfy the proof of identity documents suggested at the top of the form, but so would documents used to obtain the NYC ID card, so it seems irrelevant.