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/doug-kellner 2017-12-18T01:23:50+00:00 Webmaster webmaster@gothamgazette.com Online Voter Registration Debate Continues, with Court Challenge Possible 2017-12-14T05:00:00+00:00 2017-12-14T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7371:online-voter-registration-debate-continues-with-court-challenge-possible Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/36995856256_af91cc332f_z.jpg" alt="36995856256 af91cc332f z" width="600" height="398" /></p> <p>Gov. Cuomo voting (photo via The Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Last month, the New York City Council passed a bill that provides for online voter registration for city residents without requiring DMV-issued identification. With guidance from Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office allowing local jurisdictions to pass online registration measures, the bill holds up under state law. But state elections officials can’t agree on the validity of the bill, and city Board of Elections officials have yet to make a decision, portending that the matter may have to eventually be decided in court.</p> <p>The uncertainty is unfolding as Mayor Bill de Blasio is expected to soon sign into law the city bill, Intro. 508, the lead sponsor of which was City Council Member Ben Kallos. The question at hand is whether the city and state Boards of Elections will accept online signatures as valid in registering to vote. As of November 1, per <a href="https://www.elections.ny.gov/NYSBOE/enrollment/county/county_nov17.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">state BOE</a> numbers, there are more than five million registered voters in New York City, but <a href="https://www.nyccfb.info/pdf/2016-2017_Voter_Assistance_Annual_Report.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">an estimated</a> 700,000-plus eligible voters who are not registered, with more turning 18 years of age each year.</p> <p>Currently, the only agency authorized to accept online registration forms is the Department of Motor Vehicles, but only for people who already have DMV identification. The city bill would allow the New York City Campaign Finance Board to perform that role as well and would allow voters to submit electronic signatures matching their “wet” ink signature on paper. It would ease the process of registration for hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers, many from low-income communities of color who may lack DMV identification since they depend on public transportation.</p> <p>Following the bill’s passage, the New York City Board of Elections sought guidance from its parent body, the State BOE. But the Democratic and Republican state BOE commissioners reached a split verdict. In separate memoranda sent to the city Board earlier this week, the Democrats approved of the bill while the Republican commissioners questioned its validity.</p> <p>In a memorandum to the city BOE dated December 11, Todd Valentine, the Republican co-executive director of the state BOE, argued that the Council’s bill “would contravene New York State Constitution, state statutes and the rulings by the New York State Court of Appeals.”</p> <p>He cited a 1985 decision in Clark v Cuomo by the New York State Court of Appeals, which effectively prohibits any state or city agency that has not been specifically authorized under state law to distribute and collect voter registration forms. He also argued against acceptance of electronic signatures, insisting that they do not meet the standards for an affidavit under the Electronic Signatures and Records Act, though he did say the ESRA’s application is voluntary for agencies. (A voter registration form effectively functions as an affidavit and registrants can be held criminally liable for falsifying their information.)</p> <p>Valentine particularly noted that authorizing the city’s municipal identification program, IDNYC, as a signature repository “raises numerous issue in its own account.” “Specific research would need to be done to ensure that this program and any other so referenced, actually has strict safeguards and identification requirements to ensure that those applying for identification are, in fact, the individuals themselves,” he wrote.</p> <p>The state BOE Democratic co-executive director, Robert Brehm, wrote to the city BOE one day after Valentine. He included a memorandum prepared by co-counsel Brian Quail which read, in part, that the legislation “is consistent with state law, and the voter registration forms produced under its provisions should be processed in the normal course by boards of elections.”</p> <p>The memo pointed to A.G. Schneiderman’s <a href="https://ag.ny.gov/pdfs/2016-1_pw.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">informal opinion</a> issued to Suffolk County officials in April last year when they were considering implementing a similar system locally. “Indeed, such electronically-facilitated voter registration is, in our opinion, consistent with the expressed legislative policy of ‘encourag[ing] the broadest possible voter participation in elections,’” Schneiderman wrote at the time.</p> <p>Quail cited the opinion heavily in his memorandum. “Int. 508-A is little more than the cyber equivalent of requiring an agency of the government to provide pen and paper to persons wishing to complete a voter registration form. The legislation is crafted to comport with the parameters thoughtfully outlined in the Attorney General’s Opinion on the subject.”</p> <p>The bill provides “sufficient authority” to the Campaign Finance Board, he continued, to implement the law in a way to avoid conflicting with election law, including choosing how signatures can be submitted. “As caselaw evinces, the law defining signature has never been rigid, and Int. 508-A is precisely the type of practical extension of the law of signatures to new realities that changing modes of writing require,” he wrote.</p> <p>On the sidelines of a City Council oversight hearing on Wednesday, Douglas Kellner, Democratic co-chair of the state BOE, told Gotham Gazette that Schneiderman’s opinion “doesn’t seem to affect the Republicans.”</p> <p>“On that particular issue, the state Board of Elections really has no role, and ultimately the courts will have to decide,” he predicted. “Someone will register through that system and if the registration is not processed, that person could bring a lawsuit or if the registration is processed, someone who wants to challenge it could bring a lawsuit.”</p> <p>Kellner said the city BOE could decide to accept or reject electronically submitted signatures. The city BOE, as with its state counterpart, is a bipartisan body with ten commissioners, a Democrat and a Republican from each of the five boroughs, nominated through the party establishments. However, if they deadlock on processing such a registration form, under state law it would automatically be accepted.</p> <p>A frustrated Kellner criticized his Republican colleagues for rejecting such a common sense measure and more broadly for their obstructionist tactics. “So often, people have said there’s not a Republican or Democratic way to pick up the garbage and that election administration is similarly a nonpartisan function,” he said. “But it’s unfortunate that increasingly, there is a partisan divide over election administration. That more and more the Republican Party is imposing obstructions to allowing people to exercise their franchise and in an efficient manner.” &nbsp;</p> <p>He did say New York Republicans have been more “moderate” and have not pushed the types of voter suppression measures used in many states. “But on the other hand, it’s very disappointing that the New York Republicans have been resisting, so persistently, improvements in election administration that would make it easier for people to register to vote, easier for people to vote.”</p> <p>The New York City BOE executive director, Michael Ryan, told Gotham Gazette at the same Wednesday hearing that the city commissioners had yet to make a decision. “My expectation is that the commissioners will independently review those documents and give the executive management team of the BOE guidance on the direction that we’re going to go in,” he said. “Until such time as that information has been digested and discussed among the commissioners, we have no public opinion one way or the other.”</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/36995856256_af91cc332f_z.jpg" alt="36995856256 af91cc332f z" width="600" height="398" /></p> <p>Gov. Cuomo voting (photo via The Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Last month, the New York City Council passed a bill that provides for online voter registration for city residents without requiring DMV-issued identification. With guidance from Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office allowing local jurisdictions to pass online registration measures, the bill holds up under state law. But state elections officials can’t agree on the validity of the bill, and city Board of Elections officials have yet to make a decision, portending that the matter may have to eventually be decided in court.</p> <p>The uncertainty is unfolding as Mayor Bill de Blasio is expected to soon sign into law the city bill, Intro. 508, the lead sponsor of which was City Council Member Ben Kallos. The question at hand is whether the city and state Boards of Elections will accept online signatures as valid in registering to vote. As of November 1, per <a href="https://www.elections.ny.gov/NYSBOE/enrollment/county/county_nov17.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">state BOE</a> numbers, there are more than five million registered voters in New York City, but <a href="https://www.nyccfb.info/pdf/2016-2017_Voter_Assistance_Annual_Report.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">an estimated</a> 700,000-plus eligible voters who are not registered, with more turning 18 years of age each year.</p> <p>Currently, the only agency authorized to accept online registration forms is the Department of Motor Vehicles, but only for people who already have DMV identification. The city bill would allow the New York City Campaign Finance Board to perform that role as well and would allow voters to submit electronic signatures matching their “wet” ink signature on paper. It would ease the process of registration for hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers, many from low-income communities of color who may lack DMV identification since they depend on public transportation.</p> <p>Following the bill’s passage, the New York City Board of Elections sought guidance from its parent body, the State BOE. But the Democratic and Republican state BOE commissioners reached a split verdict. In separate memoranda sent to the city Board earlier this week, the Democrats approved of the bill while the Republican commissioners questioned its validity.</p> <p>In a memorandum to the city BOE dated December 11, Todd Valentine, the Republican co-executive director of the state BOE, argued that the Council’s bill “would contravene New York State Constitution, state statutes and the rulings by the New York State Court of Appeals.”</p> <p>He cited a 1985 decision in Clark v Cuomo by the New York State Court of Appeals, which effectively prohibits any state or city agency that has not been specifically authorized under state law to distribute and collect voter registration forms. He also argued against acceptance of electronic signatures, insisting that they do not meet the standards for an affidavit under the Electronic Signatures and Records Act, though he did say the ESRA’s application is voluntary for agencies. (A voter registration form effectively functions as an affidavit and registrants can be held criminally liable for falsifying their information.)</p> <p>Valentine particularly noted that authorizing the city’s municipal identification program, IDNYC, as a signature repository “raises numerous issue in its own account.” “Specific research would need to be done to ensure that this program and any other so referenced, actually has strict safeguards and identification requirements to ensure that those applying for identification are, in fact, the individuals themselves,” he wrote.</p> <p>The state BOE Democratic co-executive director, Robert Brehm, wrote to the city BOE one day after Valentine. He included a memorandum prepared by co-counsel Brian Quail which read, in part, that the legislation “is consistent with state law, and the voter registration forms produced under its provisions should be processed in the normal course by boards of elections.”</p> <p>The memo pointed to A.G. Schneiderman’s <a href="https://ag.ny.gov/pdfs/2016-1_pw.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">informal opinion</a> issued to Suffolk County officials in April last year when they were considering implementing a similar system locally. “Indeed, such electronically-facilitated voter registration is, in our opinion, consistent with the expressed legislative policy of ‘encourag[ing] the broadest possible voter participation in elections,’” Schneiderman wrote at the time.</p> <p>Quail cited the opinion heavily in his memorandum. “Int. 508-A is little more than the cyber equivalent of requiring an agency of the government to provide pen and paper to persons wishing to complete a voter registration form. The legislation is crafted to comport with the parameters thoughtfully outlined in the Attorney General’s Opinion on the subject.”</p> <p>The bill provides “sufficient authority” to the Campaign Finance Board, he continued, to implement the law in a way to avoid conflicting with election law, including choosing how signatures can be submitted. “As caselaw evinces, the law defining signature has never been rigid, and Int. 508-A is precisely the type of practical extension of the law of signatures to new realities that changing modes of writing require,” he wrote.</p> <p>On the sidelines of a City Council oversight hearing on Wednesday, Douglas Kellner, Democratic co-chair of the state BOE, told Gotham Gazette that Schneiderman’s opinion “doesn’t seem to affect the Republicans.”</p> <p>“On that particular issue, the state Board of Elections really has no role, and ultimately the courts will have to decide,” he predicted. “Someone will register through that system and if the registration is not processed, that person could bring a lawsuit or if the registration is processed, someone who wants to challenge it could bring a lawsuit.”</p> <p>Kellner said the city BOE could decide to accept or reject electronically submitted signatures. The city BOE, as with its state counterpart, is a bipartisan body with ten commissioners, a Democrat and a Republican from each of the five boroughs, nominated through the party establishments. However, if they deadlock on processing such a registration form, under state law it would automatically be accepted.</p> <p>A frustrated Kellner criticized his Republican colleagues for rejecting such a common sense measure and more broadly for their obstructionist tactics. “So often, people have said there’s not a Republican or Democratic way to pick up the garbage and that election administration is similarly a nonpartisan function,” he said. “But it’s unfortunate that increasingly, there is a partisan divide over election administration. That more and more the Republican Party is imposing obstructions to allowing people to exercise their franchise and in an efficient manner.” &nbsp;</p> <p>He did say New York Republicans have been more “moderate” and have not pushed the types of voter suppression measures used in many states. “But on the other hand, it’s very disappointing that the New York Republicans have been resisting, so persistently, improvements in election administration that would make it easier for people to register to vote, easier for people to vote.”</p> <p>The New York City BOE executive director, Michael Ryan, told Gotham Gazette at the same Wednesday hearing that the city commissioners had yet to make a decision. “My expectation is that the commissioners will independently review those documents and give the executive management team of the BOE guidance on the direction that we’re going to go in,” he said. “Until such time as that information has been digested and discussed among the commissioners, we have no public opinion one way or the other.”</p> <p>

***
by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
State Board of Elections Official Says City Must Move to Instant Runoff Voting 2017-12-13T05:00:00+00:00 2017-12-13T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7369:state-board-of-elections-official-says-city-must-move-to-instant-runoff-voting Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/reset_1/kallos_hearing.jpg" alt="kallos hearing" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p>Council Member Ben Kallos (photo via @NYCCouncil)</p> <hr /> <p>Ahead of the September 12 primary, mayoral candidate Sal Albanese seemingly had the Reform Party ballot line locked up. It meant that Albanese would be on the general election ballot even if he lost the Democratic primary to Mayor Bill de Blasio. At the last minute, however, Republican candidate Nicole Malliotakis and independent candidate Bo Dietl attempted to snatch the Reform nomination from Albanese through an “opportunity to ballot,” which had effectively opened up the Reform line to write-in candidates. Albanese would prevail with 53 percent of the vote, but the spectacle raised major concerns for elections officials. Had all of the candidates failed to reach the 40 percent mark, it would’ve automatically triggered a laborious and costly citywide runoff election between the top two vote-getters.</p> <p>New York City “dodged a bullet” in avoiding a runoff election, said Douglas Kellner, Democratic co-chair of the New York State Board of Elections, at a Wednesday oversight hearing of the City Council’s Committee on Governmental Operations. Kellner, who was there to give his assessment of the recent municipal elections and other matters, briefed the committee members on steps the Council could take to improve election management.</p> <p>“The first is something that is really in your lap, and that is dealing with the runoff primary election,” he said, calling on the Council to quickly implement instant runoff voting in which voters get to rank multiple candidates in order of preference. For the three citywide positions of Mayor, Public Advocate, and Comptroller, New York City’s charter instead provides for a runoff to be held two weeks after a primary, burdening local election administrators and costing millions of dollars. Most recently, an expensive runoff infamously occured in the 2013 Democratic primary for public advocate, with the primary costing more than the annual budget for the office.</p> <p>Urgent action is necessary, Kellner said, since a significant amount of time can go into updating election equipment and planning for the next election cycle. Moving soon, four years out from the next city election, would also prevent individuals and parties from predicting, and gaming, the effects on the election system, he said.</p> <p>“Now, you dodged a bullet...but, that problem hasn’t gone away,” Kellner said, insisting that there was no significant benefit from a full runoff. “And if you’re not gonna do anything, then it’s your fault,” he joked. “But it’s not realistic to make the decision two or three years down the road.” The 2021 elections, when all three citywide posts will be open due to term limits, are expected to be especially competitive in the Democratic primaries.</p> <p>Council Member Ben Kallos, the chair of the committee, is himself “incredibly supportive” of instant runoffs, he said Wednesday. “I believe that a certain elected official...in the city is opposing that legislation,” he said wryly, referring to Mayor de Blasio, who opposed instant runoff voting when he was public advocate. “While I here in the Council am willing to do so, I believe we still need to get the mayor to sign it,” Kallos added.</p> <p>All of the eight candidates to become the next City Council Speaker <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7331-city-council-speaker-candidates-address-power-reform-and-transparency?mc_cid=5cc59c4465&amp;mc_eid=6382885063&amp;utm_source=CFB+weekly+updates&amp;utm_campaign=cf7f97599c-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2017_12_01&amp;utm_medium=email&amp;utm_term=0_745d48d7ac-cf7f97599c-290605553" target="_blank" rel="noopener">recently said</a> that they support moving to instant runoff voting, often called ranked-choice voting.</p> <p>Kellner, who also floated the option of a charter amendment petition, which would go to the voters, said if the city failed to implement runoff voting, then it should abolish runoff elections entirely. “The city was lucky this last year that they didn’t have to spend the money on a runoff election,” he said. “And imagine what the reaction would’ve been if the city had to spend millions of dollars to hold a runoff election for one of the small parties, where they might’ve been spending as much as $30,000 per vote in order to administer a runoff election for one of the smaller parties. And that’s how the statute is set up now and it’s a crazy statute.”</p> <p>Indeed, in the 2013 race to replace de Blasio as public advocate, Democrats Letitia James and Daniel Squadron went to a runoff election that <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/30/nyregion/high-cost-runoff-for-public-advocates-post-prompts-calls-for-reform.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">was estimated</a> to cost around $13 million. Both Squadron and James, the eventual winner of the race, came out in favor of instant runoff voting.</p> <p>“I think that that is a worthy conversation that needs to be had and we certainly would need to make some adjustments,” said New York City Board of Election Executive Director Michael Ryan, at Wednesday’s hearing. Ryan noted that the potential runoff for the Reform Party, which holds open primaries, would be open to approximately 800,000 unaffiliated voters and the 261 New Yorkers registered with the party itself as of November 1. “It would’ve been a full citywide runoff,” he said, “and considering the paucity of actual enrollees in the Reform Party, its very easy to field candidates when you need such a small number of signatures and then open the Board up to significant elections responsibilities and a potential runoff.”</p> <p>He said the Board had plans in place to hold the election, and pointed out the multiple hurdles they would face. Between primary day and the day of the runoff, there were multiple religious holidays, and the UN General Assembly was convening, where President Donald Trump was scheduled to speak. “So to say we dodged a bullet is an understatement,” he said.</p> <p>

***
by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/reset_1/kallos_hearing.jpg" alt="kallos hearing" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p>Council Member Ben Kallos (photo via @NYCCouncil)</p> <hr /> <p>Ahead of the September 12 primary, mayoral candidate Sal Albanese seemingly had the Reform Party ballot line locked up. It meant that Albanese would be on the general election ballot even if he lost the Democratic primary to Mayor Bill de Blasio. At the last minute, however, Republican candidate Nicole Malliotakis and independent candidate Bo Dietl attempted to snatch the Reform nomination from Albanese through an “opportunity to ballot,” which had effectively opened up the Reform line to write-in candidates. Albanese would prevail with 53 percent of the vote, but the spectacle raised major concerns for elections officials. Had all of the candidates failed to reach the 40 percent mark, it would’ve automatically triggered a laborious and costly citywide runoff election between the top two vote-getters.</p> <p>New York City “dodged a bullet” in avoiding a runoff election, said Douglas Kellner, Democratic co-chair of the New York State Board of Elections, at a Wednesday oversight hearing of the City Council’s Committee on Governmental Operations. Kellner, who was there to give his assessment of the recent municipal elections and other matters, briefed the committee members on steps the Council could take to improve election management.</p> <p>“The first is something that is really in your lap, and that is dealing with the runoff primary election,” he said, calling on the Council to quickly implement instant runoff voting in which voters get to rank multiple candidates in order of preference. For the three citywide positions of Mayor, Public Advocate, and Comptroller, New York City’s charter instead provides for a runoff to be held two weeks after a primary, burdening local election administrators and costing millions of dollars. Most recently, an expensive runoff infamously occured in the 2013 Democratic primary for public advocate, with the primary costing more than the annual budget for the office.</p> <p>Urgent action is necessary, Kellner said, since a significant amount of time can go into updating election equipment and planning for the next election cycle. Moving soon, four years out from the next city election, would also prevent individuals and parties from predicting, and gaming, the effects on the election system, he said.</p> <p>“Now, you dodged a bullet...but, that problem hasn’t gone away,” Kellner said, insisting that there was no significant benefit from a full runoff. “And if you’re not gonna do anything, then it’s your fault,” he joked. “But it’s not realistic to make the decision two or three years down the road.” The 2021 elections, when all three citywide posts will be open due to term limits, are expected to be especially competitive in the Democratic primaries.</p> <p>Council Member Ben Kallos, the chair of the committee, is himself “incredibly supportive” of instant runoffs, he said Wednesday. “I believe that a certain elected official...in the city is opposing that legislation,” he said wryly, referring to Mayor de Blasio, who opposed instant runoff voting when he was public advocate. “While I here in the Council am willing to do so, I believe we still need to get the mayor to sign it,” Kallos added.</p> <p>All of the eight candidates to become the next City Council Speaker <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7331-city-council-speaker-candidates-address-power-reform-and-transparency?mc_cid=5cc59c4465&amp;mc_eid=6382885063&amp;utm_source=CFB+weekly+updates&amp;utm_campaign=cf7f97599c-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2017_12_01&amp;utm_medium=email&amp;utm_term=0_745d48d7ac-cf7f97599c-290605553" target="_blank" rel="noopener">recently said</a> that they support moving to instant runoff voting, often called ranked-choice voting.</p> <p>Kellner, who also floated the option of a charter amendment petition, which would go to the voters, said if the city failed to implement runoff voting, then it should abolish runoff elections entirely. “The city was lucky this last year that they didn’t have to spend the money on a runoff election,” he said. “And imagine what the reaction would’ve been if the city had to spend millions of dollars to hold a runoff election for one of the small parties, where they might’ve been spending as much as $30,000 per vote in order to administer a runoff election for one of the smaller parties. And that’s how the statute is set up now and it’s a crazy statute.”</p> <p>Indeed, in the 2013 race to replace de Blasio as public advocate, Democrats Letitia James and Daniel Squadron went to a runoff election that <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/30/nyregion/high-cost-runoff-for-public-advocates-post-prompts-calls-for-reform.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">was estimated</a> to cost around $13 million. Both Squadron and James, the eventual winner of the race, came out in favor of instant runoff voting.</p> <p>“I think that that is a worthy conversation that needs to be had and we certainly would need to make some adjustments,” said New York City Board of Election Executive Director Michael Ryan, at Wednesday’s hearing. Ryan noted that the potential runoff for the Reform Party, which holds open primaries, would be open to approximately 800,000 unaffiliated voters and the 261 New Yorkers registered with the party itself as of November 1. “It would’ve been a full citywide runoff,” he said, “and considering the paucity of actual enrollees in the Reform Party, its very easy to field candidates when you need such a small number of signatures and then open the Board up to significant elections responsibilities and a potential runoff.”</p> <p>He said the Board had plans in place to hold the election, and pointed out the multiple hurdles they would face. Between primary day and the day of the runoff, there were multiple religious holidays, and the UN General Assembly was convening, where President Donald Trump was scheduled to speak. “So to say we dodged a bullet is an understatement,” he said.</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
Board of Elections to Consider Emergency Regulations for Independent Expenditures 2016-09-14T04:00:00+00:00 2016-09-14T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6527:board-of-elections-set-to-consider-emergency-regulations-for-independent-expenditures Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/24278049491_ffa076d6a7_z_1.jpg" alt="cuomo podium state of the state" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p>Gov. Cuomo (photo: Governor's Office on Flickr)</p> <hr /> <p>The State Board of Elections is set to consider a set of emergency regulations governing independent expenditure campaigns at its board meeting on Thursday morning in Albany. The regulations will come just two days after state legislative primary elections and two months before the general election. Political action committees (PACs) and Super Pacs, or independent expenditure committees, have already had a significant presence in this year&rsquo;s primary contests.</p> <p>The BOE is responding to new legislation championed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who signed his controversial reform bill on August 24 after passing it through the Legislature by message of necessity in late June. The bill goes into effect 30 days after Cuomo signs it, thus putting pressure on the BOE to respond.</p> <p>The law enacts restrictions on how independent expenditure campaigns operate; expands what constitutes illegal coordination with a candidate and limits who can work for Super PACs. The legislation also sets new disclosure requirements for nonprofit lobbying groups and issue advocacy groups - for this piece, the Joint Commission on Public Ethics moved on emergency regulations earlier this year.</p> <p>On Thursday, the BOE will consider emergency regulations in the middle of an election season that has already seen major spending by Super PACs, especially in New York City where New Yorkers For Independent Action, a pro-charter school group, <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/state/6505-education-focused-super-pac-spends-on-additional-legislative-races" target="_blank">pumped millions of dollars</a> into Democratic primary contests.</p> <p>Board members have expressed concern at previous meetings that the law could be disruptive and counterintuitive given that election season is already well underway.</p> <p>Democratic BOE Chair Douglas Kellner told Gotham Gazette that he isn&rsquo;t convinced the board needs to act on emergency regulations. &ldquo;From my point of view I&rsquo;m not exactly sure why we need emergency regulations that just track the bill, but we will discuss that on Thursday,&rdquo; Kellner said.</p> <p>Republican BOE Chair Peter Kosinski said that the emergency regulations are necessary to keep interested parties informed of the changes to the laws relating to independent expenditures and to put the information in one place.</p> <p>Once the emergency regulations are adopted the public will have 45 days to comment on them.</p> <p>&rdquo;The reality is that the emergency regulation idea is related to the fact that we are headed into the November election and people need information about the changes,&rdquo; said Kosinski. &ldquo;This does not preclude the normal regulation process or any future changes. We will go through the normal process in a couple of months.&rdquo; In other words, any emergency regulations will be temporary and then re-evaluated after the election cycle.</p> <p>Kellner said he also shares concerns about the timing of the bill&rsquo;s enactment given that election season is already in full swing.</p> <p>&ldquo;The board is really between a rock and a hard place,&rdquo; said Blair Horner of the New York Public Interest Research Group. &ldquo;If the Governor wanted the law to be in effect for the election he should have signed it in June.&rdquo; It is unclear why Cuomo waited until August to sign the bill. After unveiling the plan for the legislation during a speech in New York City toward the end of the legislative session, the governor held no public ceremony to sign and promote the bill.</p> <p>Dick Dadey, executive director of Citizens Union, said the BOE is being &ldquo;responsible in providing necessary guidance on the law even if it is poorly written and flawed.&rdquo; Dadey added that &ldquo;we shouldn&rsquo;t be changing the rules in the fourth quarter of the game.&rdquo;</p> <p>Speaking <a href="http://www.twcnews.com/nys/capital-region/politics/2016/08/25/cuomo-ethics-bill-follow-new-york-state-albany.html" target="_blank">with reporters</a> in August, Cuomo touted the new regulations. Of not getting everything he wants done on government ethics reform, he also said, &ldquo;Ethics in many ways is like other activities in life. It's an ongoing pursuit.&rdquo;</p> <p>Kosinski, the Republican BOE chair, said that the time for fretting over the implementation timeline is over. &ldquo;People have to deal with that best they can. These emergency regulations are our effort to inform people of the law so that when people look for guidance on the new laws we give them accurate information,&rdquo; he said.</p> <p>Advocates had decried the process by which the bill was passed. Cuomo introduced the measure late in session claiming that it was designed to beat back the Supreme Court&rsquo;s Citizens United decision, which opened the floodgates for outside money in candidate campaigns. But the bill also included a section forcing non-profit advocacy groups to disclose more of their donors, and to report to the state, through JCOPE, their various communications about legislation, government officials, regulations, and government-related matters.</p> <p>Like other times he has used them, Cuomo was criticized for his issuance of a message of necessity that preempts the required three-day aging process designed to encourage public review. Legislators received the bill after midnight and voted on it only a few hours later.</p> <p>Cuomo, who generally controls when passed bills come to his desk for signature or veto, <a href="http://www.politico.com/states/new-york/albany/story/2016/08/questions-of-timing-surround-reform-bills-implementation-104652" target="_blank">didn&rsquo;t call the bill up</a> from the Legislature until mid-August <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/state/6476-for-cuomo-passing-ethics-bill-was-urgent-signing-it-is-not" target="_blank">after facing public pressure</a>.</p> <p>The Joint Commission on Public Ethics, which is headed by former Cuomo staffer Seth Agata and is controlled by appointees of Cuomo and legislative leaders, moved on emergency regulations in early August. The part of the bill that deals with sources of funding for nonprofits goes into effect 30 days after the bill is signed.</p> <p>The new law sets a definition of what is coordination between independent expenditure campaigns and candidates, and according to Kosinski the law could catch some off guard. &ldquo;There were significant changes going where the state hasn&rsquo;t gone before in detailing coordination, it was really fleshed out and I think people need to be aware of that going forward.&rdquo;</p> <p>Dadey said that he hopes there will be time for the kind of careful and nuanced discussion of the implementation of the law that was denied to the public before the bill was passed.</p> <p>&ldquo;I hope whatever is adopted on Thursday does not lead to greater confusion or conflict with existing law,&rdquo; said Dadey. &ldquo;We had no time to talk about this piece of legislation as a public, I hope more time is taken to discuss it now that it is law.&rdquo;</p> <p>Brandon Muir, executive director of Reclaim New York, an organization focused on government transparency, said that Albany lawmakers waited until the last minute to formulate the bill and then wasted more time signing it. &ldquo;Because they dodged having a timely, open process, we&rsquo;re in for another last-second &ldquo;emergency&rdquo; push that serves political interests and an agenda that New Yorkers didn&rsquo;t ask for,&rdquo; Muir said.</p> <p>

***
by David King, Albany editor, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note: Gotham Gazette is an independent publication of Citizens Union Foundation, sister organization of Citizens Union.</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/24278049491_ffa076d6a7_z_1.jpg" alt="cuomo podium state of the state" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p>Gov. Cuomo (photo: Governor's Office on Flickr)</p> <hr /> <p>The State Board of Elections is set to consider a set of emergency regulations governing independent expenditure campaigns at its board meeting on Thursday morning in Albany. The regulations will come just two days after state legislative primary elections and two months before the general election. Political action committees (PACs) and Super Pacs, or independent expenditure committees, have already had a significant presence in this year&rsquo;s primary contests.</p> <p>The BOE is responding to new legislation championed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who signed his controversial reform bill on August 24 after passing it through the Legislature by message of necessity in late June. The bill goes into effect 30 days after Cuomo signs it, thus putting pressure on the BOE to respond.</p> <p>The law enacts restrictions on how independent expenditure campaigns operate; expands what constitutes illegal coordination with a candidate and limits who can work for Super PACs. The legislation also sets new disclosure requirements for nonprofit lobbying groups and issue advocacy groups - for this piece, the Joint Commission on Public Ethics moved on emergency regulations earlier this year.</p> <p>On Thursday, the BOE will consider emergency regulations in the middle of an election season that has already seen major spending by Super PACs, especially in New York City where New Yorkers For Independent Action, a pro-charter school group, <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/state/6505-education-focused-super-pac-spends-on-additional-legislative-races" target="_blank">pumped millions of dollars</a> into Democratic primary contests.</p> <p>Board members have expressed concern at previous meetings that the law could be disruptive and counterintuitive given that election season is already well underway.</p> <p>Democratic BOE Chair Douglas Kellner told Gotham Gazette that he isn&rsquo;t convinced the board needs to act on emergency regulations. &ldquo;From my point of view I&rsquo;m not exactly sure why we need emergency regulations that just track the bill, but we will discuss that on Thursday,&rdquo; Kellner said.</p> <p>Republican BOE Chair Peter Kosinski said that the emergency regulations are necessary to keep interested parties informed of the changes to the laws relating to independent expenditures and to put the information in one place.</p> <p>Once the emergency regulations are adopted the public will have 45 days to comment on them.</p> <p>&rdquo;The reality is that the emergency regulation idea is related to the fact that we are headed into the November election and people need information about the changes,&rdquo; said Kosinski. &ldquo;This does not preclude the normal regulation process or any future changes. We will go through the normal process in a couple of months.&rdquo; In other words, any emergency regulations will be temporary and then re-evaluated after the election cycle.</p> <p>Kellner said he also shares concerns about the timing of the bill&rsquo;s enactment given that election season is already in full swing.</p> <p>&ldquo;The board is really between a rock and a hard place,&rdquo; said Blair Horner of the New York Public Interest Research Group. &ldquo;If the Governor wanted the law to be in effect for the election he should have signed it in June.&rdquo; It is unclear why Cuomo waited until August to sign the bill. After unveiling the plan for the legislation during a speech in New York City toward the end of the legislative session, the governor held no public ceremony to sign and promote the bill.</p> <p>Dick Dadey, executive director of Citizens Union, said the BOE is being &ldquo;responsible in providing necessary guidance on the law even if it is poorly written and flawed.&rdquo; Dadey added that &ldquo;we shouldn&rsquo;t be changing the rules in the fourth quarter of the game.&rdquo;</p> <p>Speaking <a href="http://www.twcnews.com/nys/capital-region/politics/2016/08/25/cuomo-ethics-bill-follow-new-york-state-albany.html" target="_blank">with reporters</a> in August, Cuomo touted the new regulations. Of not getting everything he wants done on government ethics reform, he also said, &ldquo;Ethics in many ways is like other activities in life. It's an ongoing pursuit.&rdquo;</p> <p>Kosinski, the Republican BOE chair, said that the time for fretting over the implementation timeline is over. &ldquo;People have to deal with that best they can. These emergency regulations are our effort to inform people of the law so that when people look for guidance on the new laws we give them accurate information,&rdquo; he said.</p> <p>Advocates had decried the process by which the bill was passed. Cuomo introduced the measure late in session claiming that it was designed to beat back the Supreme Court&rsquo;s Citizens United decision, which opened the floodgates for outside money in candidate campaigns. But the bill also included a section forcing non-profit advocacy groups to disclose more of their donors, and to report to the state, through JCOPE, their various communications about legislation, government officials, regulations, and government-related matters.</p> <p>Like other times he has used them, Cuomo was criticized for his issuance of a message of necessity that preempts the required three-day aging process designed to encourage public review. Legislators received the bill after midnight and voted on it only a few hours later.</p> <p>Cuomo, who generally controls when passed bills come to his desk for signature or veto, <a href="http://www.politico.com/states/new-york/albany/story/2016/08/questions-of-timing-surround-reform-bills-implementation-104652" target="_blank">didn&rsquo;t call the bill up</a> from the Legislature until mid-August <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/state/6476-for-cuomo-passing-ethics-bill-was-urgent-signing-it-is-not" target="_blank">after facing public pressure</a>.</p> <p>The Joint Commission on Public Ethics, which is headed by former Cuomo staffer Seth Agata and is controlled by appointees of Cuomo and legislative leaders, moved on emergency regulations in early August. The part of the bill that deals with sources of funding for nonprofits goes into effect 30 days after the bill is signed.</p> <p>The new law sets a definition of what is coordination between independent expenditure campaigns and candidates, and according to Kosinski the law could catch some off guard. &ldquo;There were significant changes going where the state hasn&rsquo;t gone before in detailing coordination, it was really fleshed out and I think people need to be aware of that going forward.&rdquo;</p> <p>Dadey said that he hopes there will be time for the kind of careful and nuanced discussion of the implementation of the law that was denied to the public before the bill was passed.</p> <p>&ldquo;I hope whatever is adopted on Thursday does not lead to greater confusion or conflict with existing law,&rdquo; said Dadey. &ldquo;We had no time to talk about this piece of legislation as a public, I hope more time is taken to discuss it now that it is law.&rdquo;</p> <p>Brandon Muir, executive director of Reclaim New York, an organization focused on government transparency, said that Albany lawmakers waited until the last minute to formulate the bill and then wasted more time signing it. &ldquo;Because they dodged having a timely, open process, we&rsquo;re in for another last-second &ldquo;emergency&rdquo; push that serves political interests and an agenda that New Yorkers didn&rsquo;t ask for,&rdquo; Muir said.</p> <p>

***
by David King, Albany editor, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note: Gotham Gazette is an independent publication of Citizens Union Foundation, sister organization of Citizens Union.</p>