For the Guide For 2005, click here
Many voters seem to agree with the presidential candidates that
Election Day in November will be the most important election in a
generation. But there is another Election Day before that - Primary Day
this week - which NOBODY thinks is more important.
True, in New York City, a thoroughly Democratic town, many local
races will in effect be decided during the primary on September 14, when
New Yorkers will select party nominees for U.S. Congress, the State
Legislature, and a dozen seats on the Civil Court.
But most of the incumbent members of Congress and the legislature are
running unopposed anyway. Even the few who have opponents aren't much
worried; voting has become a game that incumbents almost always win.
Visit our Voting Arcade and play
our first voting game, Donkey Con (Elephant Evasion), to learn first-hand the
power of an incumbent's superior name recognition, party backing, cash,
and other usually insurmountable obstacles for a challenger.
Adding to the normal frustrations of Election Day are new rules
intended to make the process more reliable - first-time voters in New
York State who registered by mail after January 1, 2003 will now be
required to present identification at the polls. (Read more about this change and why it is not necessarily
an improvement.) One addition that might be helpful -- a Voter's Bill of
Rights, which must be
displayed at every polling place.
For all the problems, it is still a citizen's obligation to vote -
and, since some races are considered competitive this year (some even
have no incumbents!), there remains the possibility that one person's
vote can make a difference.
Here is our Primary Day guide for the last minute voter.
After the election is over, visit Gotham Gazette for the results
New York City's 13 representatives to the U.S. Congress are
all up for re-election. Whoever is elected to the White House in the
next term, and whatever their position on urban issues,
members of Congress will face difficult decisions on issues critical to
the city such as:
The links above go to articles about these issues in general. Gotham
Gazette has published articles by most of the New York delegation
members on these and other issues, and will publish more by challengers
in coming weeks. (To read the articles, visit Focus on the Feds.)
There are five primary races for Congress in New York City: one in
Queens, two in the Bronx, one in Brooklyn, and one in northern
Manhattan. (For races to watch, see "Which Races Are Competitive".)
To find out who is running in your district, type your address into
Gotham Gazette's Congressional District finder.
All 89 New York City representatives to the New
York State Legislature are up for re-election this fall. If nearly
everyone in New York agrees that state government in Albany needs new
blood and new ideas, it is unlikely they are going to get it.
This year, the State Legislature missed its budget deadline for the
20th year in a row. Lawmakers failed to come up with a plan to fund a
basic education for
New York City students, even though a state Court of Appeals required
them to do so. Many pieces of major legislation stalled. And three
members of the State Legislature pleaded guilty to criminal charges,
while several more are currently being investigated. (Read more about why Albany is so dysfunctional)
For more on state races to watch, see "Which Races Are Competitive?" section below.
To read more about races, see Gotham Gazette's Eye On Albany 2004.
The elections for Civil Court this fall will select
judges that hear private, non-criminal lawsuits, which have a monetary
value of no more than $25,000. (Click here for a list of judicial
Recently, New York City's judicial system has come under scrutiny
with reports of scandal and political patronage and investigations are
still ongoing. (Read more about judicial scandal or
play Gotham Gazette's Judges Game.)
The most watched local Congressional race this year is
in Brooklyn's district 11, where
22-year incumbent Representative Major Owens faces two challengers: City
Council members Tracy Boyland and Yvette Clarke. Owens has said he plans
to retire at the end of his next term, and his challengers say he will
be a lame duck if he is re-elected.
Other congressional primaries include a race in district 17 in the
northern Bronx, where two Democrats, Kevin McAdams and Jessica Flagg,
want to unseat Representative Eliot Engel.
The northern shore of Queens features a
Republican primary as Stephen Graves and Gonzalo Policarpio vie for a
chance to face Democratic Congressman Gary Ackerman in the November
In eastern Bronx and northern Queens, Democratic Congressman Joseph
Crowley faces three challengers: Curtis
Brooks, Dennis Coleman, and Aniello Grimaldi.
And in northern Manhattan's district 15, Democrats
Ruben Dario Vargas and Geoffrey Johnson are trying to unseat Congressman
State Senate and Assembly
While many incumbents in the New York State
Legislature do not face challengers in the primary, there are four rare
open seats this year.
The indictment of long-time State Senator Guy Velella, who is serving
one year in prison for bribery, has upended the status quo in Bronx
politics this year - not only in his district in northern Bronx and
Westchester, but in two other districts as well. (See an article about
the race to fill Velella's seat).
Two incumbent State Assembly members have given up their seats to run
for Velella's spot. One is Assembly Democrat Stephen Kaufman, who
represents Co-Op City and the northeastern Bronx (See an article on the
race to fill this seat). The other is Democrat Jeffrey Klein, who represents
neighborhoods like Pelham Bay and Norwood in the Bronx. (See an article on
the race to fill this seat.)
In State Senate district 23, which includes southwest Brooklyn and
the north shore of Staten Island, four Democrats are fighting for the
seat left vacant by the retirement of Seymour Lachman. (Read an article
on this race).
Other races feature multiple candidates hoping to score an upset this
In Harlem, two challengers - John Ruiz and Eddie Baca - are trying to
unseat Democratic Adam Clayton Powell, who has been the subject of
criminal investigations after two women accused him of separate
incidents of rape. (Read an article about this race).
In East Harlem, three Democrats -- Jose Serrano, Agustin Alamo
Estrada, and Nelson A. Denis â€“ are vying to challenge long-time Senator
Olga Mendez, who switched to the Republican Party in 2002. (Read an
article about this race.)
And on the South Shore of Staten Island, a feud in the local Republican Party has pitted Assemblymember Robert Straniere against two Republican challengers: Mario Bruno and Vincent Ignizio. (Learn more about this race.)
Click here a full list of all of the state primary races and candidates.
Even the most attentive voter can have trouble evaluating candidates,
especially those who are running in the primary and agree on many basic
Newspaper editorials can be helpful; the major metropolitan
newspapers endorse candidates for office in their editorials:
New York's issue advocacy groups also rate candidates on certain
Citizens Union, a good government group
affiliated with Citizens Union Foundation, the publisher of Gotham
Gazette, prefers candidates for state office based on their ideas for
reforming Albany. The Empire State Pride Agenda rates
candidates on their stands on gay and lesbian issues. The New York
League of Conservation Voters endorses
candidates on environmental issues.
Voters who have registered should have received a yellow postcard in
the mail with the address of their polling place. If you did not, call
the Board of Elections at 1-866-VOTE NYC, or try the board's poll site
locator web site. You can
also e-mail them at
with your complete address, and
you should receive an email back instructing you where to vote.
Polls open at 6:00 a.m. and close at 9:00 p.m. Absentee ballots must
be hand-delivered to the Board of Elections by 9:00 p.m.
New voting regulations may cause confusion at the polls this
New Yorkers who registered to vote for the first time via mail after
January 1, 2003, will be asked to provide identification, such as a
driver's license when they go to the polls. Those without a driver's
license can also offer a copy of a valid photo ID, a current utility
bill, a bank statement, a government check or other government document
that shows the voter's name and address. Those who don't have any form
of identification or refuse to supply one will be allowed to vote on
paper ballot, not in the machines, according to the Board of Elections.
Those votes will be counted once they are verified to match registration
forms. (Read more about I.D. requirements.)
The new rule is part of the federal Help America Vote Act, which
Congress passed after the turmoil in Florida during the 2000
presidential election. (Read more about
efforts to reform voting in New York.)
The city's Board of Elections also says that it has increased efforts
to make polling places accessible for senior citizens and handicapped
voters, but they admit that there are still problems at some sites.
Voters who feel that their polling site is inaccessible should call the
Voter Registration Unit of their local borough office for information.
The New York Voter's Bill of Rights answers basic
questions like "Can I bring someone with me to help vote?" and "Can I
still vote if the machine breaks?" (The answer to both questions is
Television stations and newspapers will cover the most competitive
races, but some results - like judicial races - are more difficult to
Visit Gotham Gazette's results page on
election night and the following days. Remember, a close race can take
days or weeks to decide.
The General Election is Tuesday, November 2. And there is still time
to register to vote in November.
The last day to register to vote in New York is October 8. The last
day to file a request for an absentee ballot for the General Election in
New York is October 26.
You can register in person at the Board of Elections offices (click
here for a list of offices). Or
you can download a voter registration form (pdf format) in English,
Then mail the form to:
Board of Elections in the City of New York
32 Broadway, 7 Fl
New York, NY 10004-1609
Gotham Gazette's Election Results
State Legislative Races
Focus on the Feds
Eye on Albany 2004
List of Judicial Candidates
New York City Board of Elections
CNN's Guide to New York Congressional Races
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