Gotham Gazette Gotham Gazette is an online publication covering New York policy and politics as well as news on public safety, transportation, education, finance and more. http://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/closed-primaries 2017-12-14T08:18:08+00:00 Webmaster webmaster@gothamgazette.com AG Schneiderman Should Improve Our Democracy by Supporting Open Primaries 2017-02-15T00:00:00+00:00 2017-02-15T00:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6758:attorney-general-schneiderman-open-our-democracy-and-support-open-primaries Samar Khurshid <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/schneiderman.jpg" alt="schneiderman" width="600" height="450" /></p> <p>Attorney General Schneiderman (photo: @AGSchneiderman)</p> <hr /> <p>Last week, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman stood before a crowd of New Yorkers gathered at Federal Hall and announced the introduction of a comprehensive reform bill aimed at expanding voting rights in New York. I applaud his leadership on this issue but he misses a critical point.</p> <p>New York has some of the worst elections laws in the country. Among other backwards anti-voting provisions, New York has no early voting (unlike 37 states), a partisan board of elections, excuse-only absentee balloting, antiquated voting systems and holds multiple primary elections on different dates. Voters had to change their party registrations more than a full six months before the April 2016 presidential primary, before all the candidates were even identified.</p> <p>The massive impediment to voting in New York is not administrative and it is by no means passive; it’s the intentional denial of the voting rights of 3.2 million independent and third-party New Yorkers because of our system of closed primaries, in which only registered voters from the two main political parties can cast a ballot for their party’s candidate. To put that in perspective, that is half a million more voters than are registered with the Republican Party in New York. It's also more than the total number of registered voters in the entire states of Vermont, North Dakota, South Dakota, Delaware, and Montana combined. Why does New York State believe that it has the right to dictate its citizens’ conscience?</p> <p>Like those 3.2 million other independently minded New Yorkers, I am denied my basic rights as a citizen in our democracy. I was shut out of the 2016 primary elections, one of the most consequential elections in my lifetime. Why? Because I chose not to join a political party in order to exercise my right to vote. That’s not right and the 2016 primary elections perfectly illustrate why. On October 9, 2015 (the date by which New Yorkers had to change their registrations in order to vote in the primaries), few had heard of Bernie Sanders and even fewer believed that Donald Trump would become the Republican party nominee. By April, both had gained popular support among their party's voters and energized the electorate, many of whom could not cast their ballots for them. These facts demonstrate that the ability to vote in a primary is far more significant than the ability to vote in a general election.</p> <p>New York’s primary elections are not simply private party nominating contests, a deceit that is often used to justify voter disenfranchisement, and which intentionally obfuscates the fact that primaries are publicly run and paid for with millions of dollars of taxpayer money. New York’s primary elections are administered in public buildings and run by publicly paid for employees on publicly owned machines. They differ from the general election in one key respect only, that they exclude 3.2 million voters and prevent millions more major party voters from exercising real choice in voting.</p> <p>It’s no wonder New York has one of the lowest voter turnout rates in the country. Only 19.7 percent of registered New Yorkers cast a ballot in last April’s presidential primary, the second-lowest voter turnout among primary states after Louisiana. I fully support the attorney general’s work to improve our system of voting in New York, but how can we have a serious conversation about voting rights in New York when we ignore the fact that currently in New York, 33 percent of millennial voters, 33 percent of Asian voters, 20 percent of Latino voters and 15 percent of African-American voters who don’t belong to one of the two major political parties are shut out of voting in primary elections.</p> <p>Accordingly, I brought a lawsuit challenging New York’s failing system of primary elections. While my lawsuit does not directly challenge New York’s closed primary system (because I believe that discrete question is one for the legislature), it does specifically challenge the constitutionality of that provision of the election law requiring a change of party affiliation more than six months in advance of a primary election – likely at a point in time when a voter will not have had any meaningful opportunity to make up her mind. If the right to vote is to mean anything, that right must be meaningful. While the attorney general is my opponent in these proceedings, he fully supports jettisoning the provision of the election law that I challenged, and essentially recognizes its unconstitutionality. Ironically, AG Schneiderman’s first public announcement of his voting reforms took place on December 6, 2016 at the very same moment – literally – that his office was opposing my efforts to open the system up.</p> <p>Nonetheless, in his remarks last week, the Attorney General said that more people voting is good for our political parties and that anything that expands voting rights is a good thing. I agree, and encourage him to embrace open primaries and further open our democracy in New York State.</p> <p>It is not debatable that every eligible New Yorker should have the right to vote for who they want in every election.</p> <p>***<br />Mark Moody is a New York City-based attorney in private practice.</p> <p>

***
Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/schneiderman.jpg" alt="schneiderman" width="600" height="450" /></p> <p>Attorney General Schneiderman (photo: @AGSchneiderman)</p> <hr /> <p>Last week, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman stood before a crowd of New Yorkers gathered at Federal Hall and announced the introduction of a comprehensive reform bill aimed at expanding voting rights in New York. I applaud his leadership on this issue but he misses a critical point.</p> <p>New York has some of the worst elections laws in the country. Among other backwards anti-voting provisions, New York has no early voting (unlike 37 states), a partisan board of elections, excuse-only absentee balloting, antiquated voting systems and holds multiple primary elections on different dates. Voters had to change their party registrations more than a full six months before the April 2016 presidential primary, before all the candidates were even identified.</p> <p>The massive impediment to voting in New York is not administrative and it is by no means passive; it’s the intentional denial of the voting rights of 3.2 million independent and third-party New Yorkers because of our system of closed primaries, in which only registered voters from the two main political parties can cast a ballot for their party’s candidate. To put that in perspective, that is half a million more voters than are registered with the Republican Party in New York. It's also more than the total number of registered voters in the entire states of Vermont, North Dakota, South Dakota, Delaware, and Montana combined. Why does New York State believe that it has the right to dictate its citizens’ conscience?</p> <p>Like those 3.2 million other independently minded New Yorkers, I am denied my basic rights as a citizen in our democracy. I was shut out of the 2016 primary elections, one of the most consequential elections in my lifetime. Why? Because I chose not to join a political party in order to exercise my right to vote. That’s not right and the 2016 primary elections perfectly illustrate why. On October 9, 2015 (the date by which New Yorkers had to change their registrations in order to vote in the primaries), few had heard of Bernie Sanders and even fewer believed that Donald Trump would become the Republican party nominee. By April, both had gained popular support among their party's voters and energized the electorate, many of whom could not cast their ballots for them. These facts demonstrate that the ability to vote in a primary is far more significant than the ability to vote in a general election.</p> <p>New York’s primary elections are not simply private party nominating contests, a deceit that is often used to justify voter disenfranchisement, and which intentionally obfuscates the fact that primaries are publicly run and paid for with millions of dollars of taxpayer money. New York’s primary elections are administered in public buildings and run by publicly paid for employees on publicly owned machines. They differ from the general election in one key respect only, that they exclude 3.2 million voters and prevent millions more major party voters from exercising real choice in voting.</p> <p>It’s no wonder New York has one of the lowest voter turnout rates in the country. Only 19.7 percent of registered New Yorkers cast a ballot in last April’s presidential primary, the second-lowest voter turnout among primary states after Louisiana. I fully support the attorney general’s work to improve our system of voting in New York, but how can we have a serious conversation about voting rights in New York when we ignore the fact that currently in New York, 33 percent of millennial voters, 33 percent of Asian voters, 20 percent of Latino voters and 15 percent of African-American voters who don’t belong to one of the two major political parties are shut out of voting in primary elections.</p> <p>Accordingly, I brought a lawsuit challenging New York’s failing system of primary elections. While my lawsuit does not directly challenge New York’s closed primary system (because I believe that discrete question is one for the legislature), it does specifically challenge the constitutionality of that provision of the election law requiring a change of party affiliation more than six months in advance of a primary election – likely at a point in time when a voter will not have had any meaningful opportunity to make up her mind. If the right to vote is to mean anything, that right must be meaningful. While the attorney general is my opponent in these proceedings, he fully supports jettisoning the provision of the election law that I challenged, and essentially recognizes its unconstitutionality. Ironically, AG Schneiderman’s first public announcement of his voting reforms took place on December 6, 2016 at the very same moment – literally – that his office was opposing my efforts to open the system up.</p> <p>Nonetheless, in his remarks last week, the Attorney General said that more people voting is good for our political parties and that anything that expands voting rights is a good thing. I agree, and encourage him to embrace open primaries and further open our democracy in New York State.</p> <p>It is not debatable that every eligible New Yorker should have the right to vote for who they want in every election.</p> <p>***<br />Mark Moody is a New York City-based attorney in private practice.</p> <p>

***
Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

</p>
Closed Primaries are Less Inclusive than Soviet Era Politics 2016-07-18T04:00:00+00:00 2016-07-18T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6442:closed-primaries-are-less-inclusive-than-soviet-era-politics Amanda Sherwin <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/kaminsky_voting_april_2016.jpg" alt="kaminsky voting april 2016" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p>State Senator Kaminsky voting</p> <hr /> <p>I grew up in a country where most elections were fixed, voting made no difference, and the political process was a dull affair run by a party whose politics were as odious as its leaders. In that country I was able to live and vote without joining the aforementioned party, although I had to withstand poll workers knocking on my door until I exercised my civic right and duty.</p> <p>This past March, living in a country that prides itself on its democracy, I had to join a party in order to exercise my right to vote. What communists never forced me to do, the world&rsquo;s oldest democracy did. In fact, I was lucky that I could vote at all. The 27% of registered New York voters not aligned with the Democrats or the Republicans who wished to vote but did not meet the change-of-party deadline six months ahead of the state&rsquo;s closed primaries <a href="https://www.thenation.com/article/three-million-registered-voters-wont-be-able-to-vote-in-new-yorks-primary/" target="_blank">had no such luck</a>.</p> <p>It may go without saying that no one knocked on my door to remind me to exercise my civic duty.</p> <p>Closed primaries are one of the most damaging aspects of a regulatory scheme that breeds civic apathy. &ldquo;For members only&rdquo; is the principle on which these taxpayer-funded primaries operate -- as if they were club elections whose outcomes mattered to members only, and not to all American citizens. But even if you are willing to become a member, obscure deadlines and procedures, which neither party nor the government makes any meaningful effort to explain to the public, will likely put that option out of reach.</p> <p>And what if one wishes to vote Democratic in the presidential primary, Republican in the congressional primary, and for some other party in the state primary? Not such an unlikely scenario, considering, for instance, the <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-politics/wp/2016/02/11/bernie-sanders-won-2095-votes-in-the-new-hampshire-republican-primary/" target="_blank">2095 Bernie Sanders write-ins in the New Hampshire Republican primary</a> and the fact that <a href="http://thehill.com/blogs/ballot-box/gop-primaries/273151-democrats-independents-flood-into-ohio-republican-primary" target="_blank">7% of voters in the Ohio Republican primary were Democrats</a>. But even short of this type of movement, why should an &ldquo;unaffiliated&rdquo; voter not be able to choose a party primary to vote in? Why not allow someone registered with one party to decide that there&rsquo;s a candidate of another party who really speaks to them?</p> <p>What if your favorite candidate utters an insult that makes you doubt his or her fitness for public service a week before the primary (not unheard of), and your second choice belongs to a different party? The list of &ldquo;what ifs&rdquo; could go on, though all have the same answer: party affiliation in closed primary states can easily become a forced marriage the main benefit of which is best described with the term coined by the disgruntled 2008 Hillary Clinton supporters: PUMA -- Party Unity, My...you get it.</p> <p>The cost is shutting millions out of elections, perpetuating the political establishment&rsquo;s grip on our civic life, and voting for our affiliations at the expense of our best interests and convictions. If that is the price we pay for party unity, should we be surprised that party politics is becoming the butt of the joke and an object of scorn to an increasing number of Americans, much as it was to my countrypeople in the last days of the Soviet Union? We would be well-advised to learn from the past mistakes of parties, where civic life was replaced with a party line, lest we suffer similar consequences. As for closed primaries, I say, open them up!</p> <p>***<br />Gennady Yusim grew up in the Ukraine. He is currently a Programming &amp; Outreach Librarian at Queens Library.</p> <p>

***
Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

</p>
<p>&nbsp;</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/kaminsky_voting_april_2016.jpg" alt="kaminsky voting april 2016" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p>State Senator Kaminsky voting</p> <hr /> <p>I grew up in a country where most elections were fixed, voting made no difference, and the political process was a dull affair run by a party whose politics were as odious as its leaders. In that country I was able to live and vote without joining the aforementioned party, although I had to withstand poll workers knocking on my door until I exercised my civic right and duty.</p> <p>This past March, living in a country that prides itself on its democracy, I had to join a party in order to exercise my right to vote. What communists never forced me to do, the world&rsquo;s oldest democracy did. In fact, I was lucky that I could vote at all. The 27% of registered New York voters not aligned with the Democrats or the Republicans who wished to vote but did not meet the change-of-party deadline six months ahead of the state&rsquo;s closed primaries <a href="https://www.thenation.com/article/three-million-registered-voters-wont-be-able-to-vote-in-new-yorks-primary/" target="_blank">had no such luck</a>.</p> <p>It may go without saying that no one knocked on my door to remind me to exercise my civic duty.</p> <p>Closed primaries are one of the most damaging aspects of a regulatory scheme that breeds civic apathy. &ldquo;For members only&rdquo; is the principle on which these taxpayer-funded primaries operate -- as if they were club elections whose outcomes mattered to members only, and not to all American citizens. But even if you are willing to become a member, obscure deadlines and procedures, which neither party nor the government makes any meaningful effort to explain to the public, will likely put that option out of reach.</p> <p>And what if one wishes to vote Democratic in the presidential primary, Republican in the congressional primary, and for some other party in the state primary? Not such an unlikely scenario, considering, for instance, the <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-politics/wp/2016/02/11/bernie-sanders-won-2095-votes-in-the-new-hampshire-republican-primary/" target="_blank">2095 Bernie Sanders write-ins in the New Hampshire Republican primary</a> and the fact that <a href="http://thehill.com/blogs/ballot-box/gop-primaries/273151-democrats-independents-flood-into-ohio-republican-primary" target="_blank">7% of voters in the Ohio Republican primary were Democrats</a>. But even short of this type of movement, why should an &ldquo;unaffiliated&rdquo; voter not be able to choose a party primary to vote in? Why not allow someone registered with one party to decide that there&rsquo;s a candidate of another party who really speaks to them?</p> <p>What if your favorite candidate utters an insult that makes you doubt his or her fitness for public service a week before the primary (not unheard of), and your second choice belongs to a different party? The list of &ldquo;what ifs&rdquo; could go on, though all have the same answer: party affiliation in closed primary states can easily become a forced marriage the main benefit of which is best described with the term coined by the disgruntled 2008 Hillary Clinton supporters: PUMA -- Party Unity, My...you get it.</p> <p>The cost is shutting millions out of elections, perpetuating the political establishment&rsquo;s grip on our civic life, and voting for our affiliations at the expense of our best interests and convictions. If that is the price we pay for party unity, should we be surprised that party politics is becoming the butt of the joke and an object of scorn to an increasing number of Americans, much as it was to my countrypeople in the last days of the Soviet Union? We would be well-advised to learn from the past mistakes of parties, where civic life was replaced with a party line, lest we suffer similar consequences. As for closed primaries, I say, open them up!</p> <p>***<br />Gennady Yusim grew up in the Ukraine. He is currently a Programming &amp; Outreach Librarian at Queens Library.</p> <p>

***
Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

</p>
New York Primaries are Closed, Repetitive and Costly 2016-07-14T04:00:00+00:00 2016-07-14T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6438:new-york-primaries-are-closed-repetitive-and-costly Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/22127912963_5f30becd97_z_2.jpg" alt="cuomo voting 2015 machine" width="600" height="390" /></p> <p dir="ltr">Gov. Cuomo votes in 2015 (photo via Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p dir="ltr">In April, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump won the Democratic and Republican New York presidential primaries, respectively. New York has a well-publicized and worsening voter turnout problem, and approximately one in four registered New York voters could have no say in the presidential primary outcomes even if they wanted to - other than by changing their party affiliation more than a year prior.</p> <p dir="ltr">New York is one of only <a href="http://www.fairvote.org/primaries#presidential_primary_or_caucus_type_by_state" target="_blank">nine states</a> in the country, as of 2016, in which both major parties run closed primaries, meaning that voting in the Democratic primary is only open to registered Democrats and voting in the Republican primary is only open to registered Republicans. Closed party primaries are closed to unaffiliated registered voters - often referred to as independents - and to voters registered with smaller parties like the Green Party.</p> <p dir="ltr"><a href="http://www.elections.ny.gov/NYSBOE/enrollment/county/county_apr16.pdf" target="_blank">According to the New York State Board of Elections</a>, as of April 1 there are 11,726,842 registered voters in New York (this figure includes both active and inactive voters). Of those voters, 2,485,475 are unaffiliated with a party, and 717,182 are registered with parties outside the two major political parties (Conservative, Green, Libertarian, Working Families, Independence, etc. - people regularly register with the Independence Party incorrectly thinking they are registering as &ldquo;independent,&rdquo; or unaffiliated). There are almost as many unaffiliated registered voters in New York as there are registered Republicans (2.7 million). There are 5.8 million registered Democrats across the state.</p> <p dir="ltr">Despite not being allowed to vote in party primary elections, unaffiliated voters, along with registered Democrats and Republicans and &ldquo;third party&rdquo; voters, foot the bill for the administration of those elections. In New York, <a href="http://www.syracuse.com/state/index.ssf/2016/02/ny_could_save_25m_in_2016_if_all_primary_elections_were_held_same_day.html" target="_blank">the cost of a primary election in 2016 is $25 million</a>, which amounts to the <a href="http://www.openprimaries.org/taxpayer_costs_of_closed_primaries" target="_blank">fourth most expensive primary election in the country</a>, and this cost to taxpayers is not limited to presidential primaries; New York Congressional primaries and local and state legislative primaries cost $25 million each. In 2016, New York is holding three different primary days (presidential in April, congressional in June, and state/local in September).</p> <p dir="ltr">New York&rsquo;s closed primary system and the costs associated with it - both monetary and democratic - have resulted in calls for change.</p> <p dir="ltr">New York State Assemblymember Michael Cusick, a Democrat who represents part of Staten Island, introduced legislation earlier this year that would consolidate all non-presidential primaries to a single election day (<a href="http://assembly.state.ny.us/leg/?default_fld=&amp;bn=A09108&amp;term=2015&amp;Summary=Y&amp;Actions=Y&amp;Votes=Y&amp;Memo=Y&amp;Text=Y" target="_blank">Assembly bill A09108</a>). Currently, U.S. Congressional primaries and state and local primaries are held on two separate days, costing the state $50 million, about half of which could be saved by consolidating. In February, the Democrat-controlled Assembly passed the bill, which would move all non-presidential primaries to the fourth Tuesday in June, the current date of congressional primaries. In the Republican-led state Senate, however, the bill was not taken up.</p> <p dir="ltr">Some state senators are hesitant to support legislation that would require them to prepare for an election while they are still working in the capital - the state legislative session runs from January to mid-June. Currently, senators and Assembly members have the summer of election years to prepare for their September primaries as needed (state legislators serve two-year terms).</p> <p dir="ltr">A bill almost identical to Assemblymember Cusick&rsquo;s was introduced to the state Senate by Republican Sen. Fred Ashkar, who represents the Binghamton area (<a href="https://www.nysenate.gov/legislation/bills/2015/S6604" target="_blank">Senate bill S6604</a>). But, Ashkar&rsquo;s bill would assign the third Tuesday in August as the singular election day for all non-presidential New York primary elections rather than the fourth Tuesday in June. The bill, introduced in January and passed by the Senate in March, would still save taxpayers money by consolidating election days but because it calls for an August election day, it would allow state legislators to avoid the conflict between working and campaigning. Yet, Ashkar&rsquo;s bill has no chance in the Assembly because Democrats see it as an effort to suppress the vote, given the late August date, when people are even less likely than usual to be paying attention to politics or in town to vote.</p> <p dir="ltr">While either consolidation of the congressional and state/local primaries would save taxpayers money, without opening up the primaries voters registered as unaffiliated would remain unable to vote until the November general elections.</p> <p dir="ltr">Assemblymember Fred Thiele of Long Island is unaffiliated with a political party. Thiele introduced legislation (<a href="https://www.nysenate.gov/legislation/bills/2015/a9661/amendment/original" target="_blank">Assembly bill A9661</a>) in March that would allow unaffiliated voters to vote in primary elections. Many voters were hoping that the bill would be passed in time for this year&rsquo;s presidential primary; however, election day came and went as the bill sat in committee.</p> <p dir="ltr">This year&rsquo;s presidential primaries were notably frustrating for many New York voters. While unaffiliated New York voters are ordinarily unable to vote in their state&rsquo;s closed party primaries, thousands of voters found themselves unable to vote despite having registered in one of the two major parties. With one day remaining before the April 19 primaries, voter advocacy group Election Justice USA <a href="http://electionjusticeusa.org/index.php/what-we-do/" target="_blank">filed a lawsuit</a> in New York federal court on behalf of thousands of voters.</p> <p dir="ltr">According to Election Justice USA, the lawsuit represented both voters whose party affiliation had been inexplicably changed to unaffiliated and voters who had been left off of voter rolls.The group&rsquo;s goal was to secure an emergency declaratory judgement, which would open New York&rsquo;s Democratic primary to <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/live/new-york-primary-2016/group/" target="_blank">voters registered as unaffiliated and Republican</a>. The judgement was deferred and the primary remained closed.</p> <p dir="ltr">Jerry Skurnik, partner at Prime New York, a consultancy, specializes in providing political candidates with demographic information on New York voters. He believes that open elections have benefits for less partisan candidates.</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Most of the talk this year had to do with the presidential primary, and it was sort of an exception in that a lot of young people who were unaffiliated were vehemently for [Bernie] Sanders, but I think in general, [open primaries] would probably help more moderate candidates and less partisan Democrats,&rdquo; Skurnik said in a phone interview with Gotham Gazette.</p> <p dir="ltr">While less strict partisanship might be one potential benefit of opening primary elections, Skurnik also points out that there is a question of fairness that should be considered when discussing open primaries.</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;[A closed primary] allows people who are supporters of the Democratic or Republican party to pick the candidates. It doesn&rsquo;t allow people who really aren&rsquo;t loyal or committed Democrats or Republicans to have a say in who&rsquo;s going to be the party nominee. There&rsquo;s an argument -- why should someone who votes for Democrats for office 25 percent of the time have any say in picking a Democratic candidate?&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">This question of fairness is not limited to the role of unaffiliated voters in the Democratic and Republican primaries. While much smaller than the Democratic and Republican parties, third parties have active registered voters, and opening presidential primaries to allow any voter to vote in any primary regardless of party affiliation could be detrimental to these minor parties.</p> <p dir="ltr">Minor parties, according are Skurnik, &ldquo;are really ideological parties.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;They stand for something, so why should the conservative who&rsquo;s unaffiliated have a right to vote in the primary for the Green Party -- someone who&rsquo;s in favor of fracking. Because they&rsquo;re unaffiliated, should they be allowed to vote in the Green Party or vice versa? Should someone who&rsquo;s pro-choice, should they be allowed to help pick the Conservative Party candidate because they&rsquo;re unaffiliated?&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">While they tend to be actively engaged in politics, voters registered with minor parties don&rsquo;t make up a large portion of the electorate in New York. For example, there are 50,000 voters registered with the Working Families Party across New York according to Skurnik, and while unaffiliated New York voters are more numerous than &ldquo;third party&rdquo; voters, their political tendencies are more difficult to determine. However, there is one observable pattern shared among unaffiliated voters.</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;We may not know where [unaffiliated voters] lean politically, but we do know they vote less often than people who registered in a party,&rdquo; Skurnik said. &ldquo;A higher percentage of Democrats and a higher percentage of Republicans and even a higher percentage of minor party registrants vote in general elections than unaffiliated voters. So a larger proportion of unaffiliated voters are less active, more apathetic.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">Across the country, 43 percent of all registered voters are registered as unaffiliated. According to Open Primaries, an advocacy group that advocates for the establishment of open primaries in all 50 states, there are approximately 26 million registered voters closed out of voting in major party primary elections across the country. Currently, there are <a href="http://www.fairvote.org/primaries#presidential_primary_or_caucus_type_by_state" target="_blank">14 states</a> in which both major parties run open presidential primaries.</p> <p dir="ltr">The <a href="http://www.openprimaries.org/taxpayer_costs_of_closed_primaries" target="_blank">total cost</a> of running elections in all closed primary states is $300 million. This figure only includes closed primaries run by the state -- caucuses, while also exclusionary to unaffiliated voters, do not cost taxpayers anything in the states in which they are held. This is because caucuses are paid for by the parties themselves. Some question why states pay for and implement closed primary elections at all given that they are controlled by the parties. (For the recent presidential primaries in New York, Democratic voters voted not just for a nominee, but also for delegates to the party convention; Republicans voted only for a nominee, their New York delegates to the RNC are chosen at a party meeting.)</p> <p dir="ltr">One alternative to the closed primary system is the system employed by California for its presidential primary elections, which is something of a hybrid. In California, parties can choose between running a closed primary or a modified closed primary in which the party can choose to allow &ldquo;no party preference&rdquo; (NPP) voters, otherwise known as independent or unaffiliated voters, to vote in their primaries. In this year&rsquo;s California presidential primary held on June 7, the Republican Party chose to run a closed primary, excluding NPP voters and allowing only registered Republicans to vote. The Democratic Party chose to run a modified closed primary, allowing both registered Democrats and NPP voters to vote in the Democratic primary.</p> <p dir="ltr">California not only runs a modified closed presidential primary, but it also joins Washington and Nebraska in running a &ldquo;top two&rdquo; open primary system for all non-presidential primary elections. In the &ldquo;top two&rdquo; system, all qualified candidates are listed on the ballot; all voters, irrespective of party affiliation, can vote for whichever candidate they prefer; and the top two vote-getters, irrespective of party affiliation, move on to the general election. This system often results in two candidates of the same party opposing each other in the general election.</p> <p dir="ltr">This system is also known as a nonpartisan primary, and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg - a Democrat turned Republican turned independent - once unsuccessfully advocated for its establishment in New York during his mayoral tenure. In New York City, Democrats hold an even more stark registration advantage than across the state: there are just over 3 million registered Democrats in New York City and just about 460,000 registered Republicans. Meanwhile, there are more than 785,700 registered New York City voters not affiliated with a party.</p> <p dir="ltr">While Bloomberg&rsquo;s <a href="http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052748703636404575353460741823880" target="_blank">efforts failed in 2003</a>, U.S. Senator Charles Schumer, a New York Democrat, recently supported the implementation of nonpartisan primaries in <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/22/opinion/charles-schumer-adopt-the-open-primary.html?_r=2&amp;module=ArrowsNav&amp;contentCollection=Opinion&amp;action=keypress&amp;region=FixedLeft&amp;pgtype=article" target="_blank">a 2014 New York Times op-ed</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">Within the op-ed, Senator Schumer not only called for nonpartisan primaries in New York, but for nonpartisan primaries all across the United States.</p> <p>&ldquo;We need a national movement to adopt the &ldquo;top-two&rdquo; primary (also known as an open primary), in which all voters, regardless of party registration, can vote and the top two vote-getters, regardless of party, then enter a runoff,&rdquo; Schumer wrote. &ldquo;This would prevent a hard-right or hard-left candidate from gaining office with the support of just a sliver of the voters of the vastly diminished primary electorate; to finish in the top two, candidates from either party would have to reach out to the broad middle.&rdquo;</p> <p>***<br />by Libby Wetzler for Gotham Gazette<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/GothamGazette" target="_blank">@GothamGazette</a></p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/22127912963_5f30becd97_z_2.jpg" alt="cuomo voting 2015 machine" width="600" height="390" /></p> <p dir="ltr">Gov. Cuomo votes in 2015 (photo via Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p dir="ltr">In April, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump won the Democratic and Republican New York presidential primaries, respectively. New York has a well-publicized and worsening voter turnout problem, and approximately one in four registered New York voters could have no say in the presidential primary outcomes even if they wanted to - other than by changing their party affiliation more than a year prior.</p> <p dir="ltr">New York is one of only <a href="http://www.fairvote.org/primaries#presidential_primary_or_caucus_type_by_state" target="_blank">nine states</a> in the country, as of 2016, in which both major parties run closed primaries, meaning that voting in the Democratic primary is only open to registered Democrats and voting in the Republican primary is only open to registered Republicans. Closed party primaries are closed to unaffiliated registered voters - often referred to as independents - and to voters registered with smaller parties like the Green Party.</p> <p dir="ltr"><a href="http://www.elections.ny.gov/NYSBOE/enrollment/county/county_apr16.pdf" target="_blank">According to the New York State Board of Elections</a>, as of April 1 there are 11,726,842 registered voters in New York (this figure includes both active and inactive voters). Of those voters, 2,485,475 are unaffiliated with a party, and 717,182 are registered with parties outside the two major political parties (Conservative, Green, Libertarian, Working Families, Independence, etc. - people regularly register with the Independence Party incorrectly thinking they are registering as &ldquo;independent,&rdquo; or unaffiliated). There are almost as many unaffiliated registered voters in New York as there are registered Republicans (2.7 million). There are 5.8 million registered Democrats across the state.</p> <p dir="ltr">Despite not being allowed to vote in party primary elections, unaffiliated voters, along with registered Democrats and Republicans and &ldquo;third party&rdquo; voters, foot the bill for the administration of those elections. In New York, <a href="http://www.syracuse.com/state/index.ssf/2016/02/ny_could_save_25m_in_2016_if_all_primary_elections_were_held_same_day.html" target="_blank">the cost of a primary election in 2016 is $25 million</a>, which amounts to the <a href="http://www.openprimaries.org/taxpayer_costs_of_closed_primaries" target="_blank">fourth most expensive primary election in the country</a>, and this cost to taxpayers is not limited to presidential primaries; New York Congressional primaries and local and state legislative primaries cost $25 million each. In 2016, New York is holding three different primary days (presidential in April, congressional in June, and state/local in September).</p> <p dir="ltr">New York&rsquo;s closed primary system and the costs associated with it - both monetary and democratic - have resulted in calls for change.</p> <p dir="ltr">New York State Assemblymember Michael Cusick, a Democrat who represents part of Staten Island, introduced legislation earlier this year that would consolidate all non-presidential primaries to a single election day (<a href="http://assembly.state.ny.us/leg/?default_fld=&amp;bn=A09108&amp;term=2015&amp;Summary=Y&amp;Actions=Y&amp;Votes=Y&amp;Memo=Y&amp;Text=Y" target="_blank">Assembly bill A09108</a>). Currently, U.S. Congressional primaries and state and local primaries are held on two separate days, costing the state $50 million, about half of which could be saved by consolidating. In February, the Democrat-controlled Assembly passed the bill, which would move all non-presidential primaries to the fourth Tuesday in June, the current date of congressional primaries. In the Republican-led state Senate, however, the bill was not taken up.</p> <p dir="ltr">Some state senators are hesitant to support legislation that would require them to prepare for an election while they are still working in the capital - the state legislative session runs from January to mid-June. Currently, senators and Assembly members have the summer of election years to prepare for their September primaries as needed (state legislators serve two-year terms).</p> <p dir="ltr">A bill almost identical to Assemblymember Cusick&rsquo;s was introduced to the state Senate by Republican Sen. Fred Ashkar, who represents the Binghamton area (<a href="https://www.nysenate.gov/legislation/bills/2015/S6604" target="_blank">Senate bill S6604</a>). But, Ashkar&rsquo;s bill would assign the third Tuesday in August as the singular election day for all non-presidential New York primary elections rather than the fourth Tuesday in June. The bill, introduced in January and passed by the Senate in March, would still save taxpayers money by consolidating election days but because it calls for an August election day, it would allow state legislators to avoid the conflict between working and campaigning. Yet, Ashkar&rsquo;s bill has no chance in the Assembly because Democrats see it as an effort to suppress the vote, given the late August date, when people are even less likely than usual to be paying attention to politics or in town to vote.</p> <p dir="ltr">While either consolidation of the congressional and state/local primaries would save taxpayers money, without opening up the primaries voters registered as unaffiliated would remain unable to vote until the November general elections.</p> <p dir="ltr">Assemblymember Fred Thiele of Long Island is unaffiliated with a political party. Thiele introduced legislation (<a href="https://www.nysenate.gov/legislation/bills/2015/a9661/amendment/original" target="_blank">Assembly bill A9661</a>) in March that would allow unaffiliated voters to vote in primary elections. Many voters were hoping that the bill would be passed in time for this year&rsquo;s presidential primary; however, election day came and went as the bill sat in committee.</p> <p dir="ltr">This year&rsquo;s presidential primaries were notably frustrating for many New York voters. While unaffiliated New York voters are ordinarily unable to vote in their state&rsquo;s closed party primaries, thousands of voters found themselves unable to vote despite having registered in one of the two major parties. With one day remaining before the April 19 primaries, voter advocacy group Election Justice USA <a href="http://electionjusticeusa.org/index.php/what-we-do/" target="_blank">filed a lawsuit</a> in New York federal court on behalf of thousands of voters.</p> <p dir="ltr">According to Election Justice USA, the lawsuit represented both voters whose party affiliation had been inexplicably changed to unaffiliated and voters who had been left off of voter rolls.The group&rsquo;s goal was to secure an emergency declaratory judgement, which would open New York&rsquo;s Democratic primary to <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/live/new-york-primary-2016/group/" target="_blank">voters registered as unaffiliated and Republican</a>. The judgement was deferred and the primary remained closed.</p> <p dir="ltr">Jerry Skurnik, partner at Prime New York, a consultancy, specializes in providing political candidates with demographic information on New York voters. He believes that open elections have benefits for less partisan candidates.</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Most of the talk this year had to do with the presidential primary, and it was sort of an exception in that a lot of young people who were unaffiliated were vehemently for [Bernie] Sanders, but I think in general, [open primaries] would probably help more moderate candidates and less partisan Democrats,&rdquo; Skurnik said in a phone interview with Gotham Gazette.</p> <p dir="ltr">While less strict partisanship might be one potential benefit of opening primary elections, Skurnik also points out that there is a question of fairness that should be considered when discussing open primaries.</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;[A closed primary] allows people who are supporters of the Democratic or Republican party to pick the candidates. It doesn&rsquo;t allow people who really aren&rsquo;t loyal or committed Democrats or Republicans to have a say in who&rsquo;s going to be the party nominee. There&rsquo;s an argument -- why should someone who votes for Democrats for office 25 percent of the time have any say in picking a Democratic candidate?&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">This question of fairness is not limited to the role of unaffiliated voters in the Democratic and Republican primaries. While much smaller than the Democratic and Republican parties, third parties have active registered voters, and opening presidential primaries to allow any voter to vote in any primary regardless of party affiliation could be detrimental to these minor parties.</p> <p dir="ltr">Minor parties, according are Skurnik, &ldquo;are really ideological parties.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;They stand for something, so why should the conservative who&rsquo;s unaffiliated have a right to vote in the primary for the Green Party -- someone who&rsquo;s in favor of fracking. Because they&rsquo;re unaffiliated, should they be allowed to vote in the Green Party or vice versa? Should someone who&rsquo;s pro-choice, should they be allowed to help pick the Conservative Party candidate because they&rsquo;re unaffiliated?&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">While they tend to be actively engaged in politics, voters registered with minor parties don&rsquo;t make up a large portion of the electorate in New York. For example, there are 50,000 voters registered with the Working Families Party across New York according to Skurnik, and while unaffiliated New York voters are more numerous than &ldquo;third party&rdquo; voters, their political tendencies are more difficult to determine. However, there is one observable pattern shared among unaffiliated voters.</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;We may not know where [unaffiliated voters] lean politically, but we do know they vote less often than people who registered in a party,&rdquo; Skurnik said. &ldquo;A higher percentage of Democrats and a higher percentage of Republicans and even a higher percentage of minor party registrants vote in general elections than unaffiliated voters. So a larger proportion of unaffiliated voters are less active, more apathetic.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">Across the country, 43 percent of all registered voters are registered as unaffiliated. According to Open Primaries, an advocacy group that advocates for the establishment of open primaries in all 50 states, there are approximately 26 million registered voters closed out of voting in major party primary elections across the country. Currently, there are <a href="http://www.fairvote.org/primaries#presidential_primary_or_caucus_type_by_state" target="_blank">14 states</a> in which both major parties run open presidential primaries.</p> <p dir="ltr">The <a href="http://www.openprimaries.org/taxpayer_costs_of_closed_primaries" target="_blank">total cost</a> of running elections in all closed primary states is $300 million. This figure only includes closed primaries run by the state -- caucuses, while also exclusionary to unaffiliated voters, do not cost taxpayers anything in the states in which they are held. This is because caucuses are paid for by the parties themselves. Some question why states pay for and implement closed primary elections at all given that they are controlled by the parties. (For the recent presidential primaries in New York, Democratic voters voted not just for a nominee, but also for delegates to the party convention; Republicans voted only for a nominee, their New York delegates to the RNC are chosen at a party meeting.)</p> <p dir="ltr">One alternative to the closed primary system is the system employed by California for its presidential primary elections, which is something of a hybrid. In California, parties can choose between running a closed primary or a modified closed primary in which the party can choose to allow &ldquo;no party preference&rdquo; (NPP) voters, otherwise known as independent or unaffiliated voters, to vote in their primaries. In this year&rsquo;s California presidential primary held on June 7, the Republican Party chose to run a closed primary, excluding NPP voters and allowing only registered Republicans to vote. The Democratic Party chose to run a modified closed primary, allowing both registered Democrats and NPP voters to vote in the Democratic primary.</p> <p dir="ltr">California not only runs a modified closed presidential primary, but it also joins Washington and Nebraska in running a &ldquo;top two&rdquo; open primary system for all non-presidential primary elections. In the &ldquo;top two&rdquo; system, all qualified candidates are listed on the ballot; all voters, irrespective of party affiliation, can vote for whichever candidate they prefer; and the top two vote-getters, irrespective of party affiliation, move on to the general election. This system often results in two candidates of the same party opposing each other in the general election.</p> <p dir="ltr">This system is also known as a nonpartisan primary, and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg - a Democrat turned Republican turned independent - once unsuccessfully advocated for its establishment in New York during his mayoral tenure. In New York City, Democrats hold an even more stark registration advantage than across the state: there are just over 3 million registered Democrats in New York City and just about 460,000 registered Republicans. Meanwhile, there are more than 785,700 registered New York City voters not affiliated with a party.</p> <p dir="ltr">While Bloomberg&rsquo;s <a href="http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052748703636404575353460741823880" target="_blank">efforts failed in 2003</a>, U.S. Senator Charles Schumer, a New York Democrat, recently supported the implementation of nonpartisan primaries in <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/22/opinion/charles-schumer-adopt-the-open-primary.html?_r=2&amp;module=ArrowsNav&amp;contentCollection=Opinion&amp;action=keypress&amp;region=FixedLeft&amp;pgtype=article" target="_blank">a 2014 New York Times op-ed</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">Within the op-ed, Senator Schumer not only called for nonpartisan primaries in New York, but for nonpartisan primaries all across the United States.</p> <p>&ldquo;We need a national movement to adopt the &ldquo;top-two&rdquo; primary (also known as an open primary), in which all voters, regardless of party registration, can vote and the top two vote-getters, regardless of party, then enter a runoff,&rdquo; Schumer wrote. &ldquo;This would prevent a hard-right or hard-left candidate from gaining office with the support of just a sliver of the voters of the vastly diminished primary electorate; to finish in the top two, candidates from either party would have to reach out to the broad middle.&rdquo;</p> <p>***<br />by Libby Wetzler for Gotham Gazette<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/GothamGazette" target="_blank">@GothamGazette</a></p>