A Guide For The Last-Minute Voter
By Amy Sandgrund
Few New Yorkers remember that September 11, 2001 was supposed to be Primary
Day in New York City. But, though it is sure to be overshadowed by the
commemorations scheduled for September 11, New Yorkers are also being asked
once again to vote this week. Primary Day this year is September 10. It would
be understandable if few have been paying attention, which is why this guide
for the last-minute voter offers a quick overview of the election.
Who is running?
The one race that most New Yorkers know at least something about is the
governor's race. While Andrew
Cuomo, Thomas Golisano,
Carl McCall and
George Pataki have been airing commercials on television,
there are many other candidates who have been out campaigning on the street,
or door to door, or at least mailbox by mailbox. This September, New Yorkers
who are registered with a political party will have an opportunity to choose
the party nominees -- who will appear on the ballot in November -- not only
for governor, but also for lieutenant governor and
York State comptroller, as well as
members of the New York State Assembly and Senate, and for judges.
There are several ways to find out who will be on your ballot:
On Gotham Gazette: go to Eye on Albany and look for the links
to the state-wide races on the upper left hand side. For the State Assembly
and State Senate races, our "What's My District" feature on the right hand
side of the Eye on Albany home page allows you to learn what district you are
in. Type in your street address and zip code in the right hand column and
you will be taken to a page listing your State Senate and State Assembly
districts - click on either to find out about the candidates in your
district, the issues, and the incumbent's record. You can also check out
other districts in your borough by clicking on the borough tabs at the top of
You can also log onto the
League of Women Voters Democracy Net New York which lists the candidates
running for statewide and local office.
You may see some familiar names when you arrive in the voting booth this
year. Because of term limits in the City Council, many of New York's
well-known politicians were out of job. Some of them have re-surfaced this
summer as candidates for the State Legislature.
Why is this election important?
Critics argue that New York State government
fails to produce for New York
is so despite the enormous size of New York City's population and its economy
as compared to the rest of the state: New York City has 42 percent of the
state's people and 43 percent of the jobs and generates roughly 55 percent of
the state's gross domestic product. This is also so despite the dominance of
the State Assembly by Democrats led by a Manhattan representative, Sheldon
Silver. Silver is one of the three men who are said to rule the state.
But the other two hail from upstate -- Governor Pataki, who is from
Peekskill, and State Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, who represents
Rensselaer/Saratoga. And New York City is not the home of the state's
government nor the favorite of its political leaders.
There is a long-time antipathy between upstate and downstate reflected in the
views and the actions of the upstate legislators. And New York City voters
routinely re-elect representatives who go to Albany, then participate in the
late budget-making, the bottling up of important laws in committees and
studies, and the shaving off of hundreds of millions of dollars from the
city's program entitlements. They are rarely called to account for this,
because they are often without even a major-party challenger at election time.
This matters because Albany law-makers have control over some of the issues
that are of utmost concern to New York City residents. (Read
"Blame Albany," summarizing a
dozen issues of vital importance downstate). In
education, more than 40 percent of
the funding for New York City's schools comes from Albany, and many argue
that New York is still not getting funding equivalent to upstate school
districts. For New Yorkers who benefit from
rent control laws, it is the state that will
determine whether the city's current regulations will remain on the books
after their expiration in June 2003. Meanwhile, New York's drug laws passed
in 1973 by Governor Nelson Rockefeller, are among the harshest in the nation,
taking an exceptional toll on minority communities and New York City
residents. Ninety-four percent of New York State's
drug offenders are African-American or
Latino. To find out more about how Albany effects New York City, check out
"Why Albany Matters" section in the lower left column of the Eye on Albany
home page, and our
"Previous Features" archives.
What are the candidates saying?
As an alternative to the candidates' thirty second commercials, try Eye on
Albany's Governor's page which lists
not only biographical information on the candidates, but also links to their
position statements on issues ranging from rebuilding New York City to
As for local races, the redrawing of the political boundaries -- a
redistricting that is supposed to reflect the change in population as
determined by the 2000 Census -- has resulted in several new districts in the
city where there are no incumbents. There is one such open seat on
couple in Queens (a senate seat and an
assembly seat), one in
and one in the Bronx. Thanks
to two retiring incumbents, there are also two open seats in Manhattan - one
on the Upper West Side and one on
the Upper East Side. That is
a total of just seven seats, out of 91 representing New York City, that have
But, unlike previous years, several incumbents are facing serious challenges.
Some are from former city council members: Guillermo Linares is running
against incumbent Eric Schneiderman in
Upper Manhattan and Julia
Harrison is running against Toby Stavisky in
challengers are newcomers, such as David Mercaldo, who is running against
Robert Straniere in
Staten Island, in a race
that reflects the Byzantine state of Staten Island politics.
For more information on local races, it is best to check with neighborhood
papers, community organizations, and even the candidates themselves to find
out if there are places were you can see and hear what the candidates have to
say. (Some of these articles are available, at least in summary, on our
Campaign Trails - see below).
How can I catch up on what has been happening?
You can catch up with all of the campaign news quickly with Eye on Albany's
Campaign Trail that has archived
stories from all of New York City's major newspapers, as well as the Albany
Times Union and various community newspapers. You can see how the campaign
has progressed, when and whether the major issues have entered the campaign
debate, and compare the coverage of one newspaper to another as you try to
decide how to vote.
How and where do I vote?
You can only vote in the primary if you are registered with a political
party. The last day to register for the September Primary has passed, but
you can still register to vote in the general election or any runoff
elections should they be necessary. Download a
voter registration form and mail or deliver it to the
Board of Elections.
Once you are registered to vote, you must find your polling place.
Registered voters should receive a bright yellow post card in the mail with
the address of their polling place. You can also call the Board of Elections
at 212 VOTE-NYC (9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday to get a real person; and
automated system operates 24 hours a day), try the board's
poll site locator
web site, or e-mail them at
your complete address.
There are instructions for how to operate a polling machine
on line. If you go to vote on
September 10 and you are told that you are not on the Board of Elections roll
(and you think you should be), request an "affidavit ballot" which is a paper
If you have problems at your polling site on Election Day, call the New York
Public Interest Research Group Voter Help Line 212-822-0282 to register your
complaint. They will have both Spanish and English speaking operators.