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What is Searchlight on Campaign 2001?
on Campaign 2001 is a guide to the political races in what
many are calling New York City's most significant campaign
season in modern history.
What is so significant about it?
the first time in memory, most political offices in the city
will be wide open to people who have neither money nor connections.
Why will the races be so open?
are two reasons. This year, a new law goes into effect that
limits the terms of New York City elected officials, forcing
the mass retirement of most incumbents in the city - including
the mayor, the comptroller, the public advocate, four of the
five borough presidents, and 36 of the 51 members of the City
Council. At the same time, a new campaign finance law kicks
in, which allows any candidate who agrees to certain restrictions
to collect four dollars of matching funds for every dollar
What does this have to do with this site?
a public service, Searchlight on Campaign 2001 has a separate
page for each race, including all the races for City Council,
that not only sorts out the candidates -- many of them new
and unfamiliar -- but also offers an opportunity to learn
about the issues, and the districts themselves.
Who is behind Searchlight on Campaign 2001?
on Campaign 2001 is a project of Gotham Gazette, a non-profit,
non-partisan, non-ideological (but non-boring) web site about
New York City news, policy and politics published by Citizens
Union Foundation, part of the oldest and largest good-government
group in the city (founded in 1897).
What's wrong with the way the regular press
covers the races?
is for you to decide. And one of our regular features, Campaign
Trail, helps you to decide. Campaign Trail provides succinct
summaries and links to campaign articles in the commercial
Who are we?
NYC Issues 2001: Voting
By Linda Stone Davidoff
I. THE VOTING PROCESS
New York voters cast their ballots
on antiquated mechanical equipment which is subject to
jamming and breakage -- and since the machines are no
longer manufactured, repair parts must be recycled from
machines discarded by other jurisdictions.
Past efforts to replace the machines stalled when the
Board of Elections could not carry out the bidding process
to select new technology, choose a vendor, and proceed
to purchase. This inability to meet the challenge of new
voting machinery reflects the Board's unique -- and dysfunctional
-- bipartisan patronage staff structure (see below). The
failure to replace the equipment is a mixed blessing,
since the Board avoided what might have been a disastrous
choice of punch-card technology, popular a decade ago
with election officials across the country.
As a result of the Presidential election fiasco in November
2000 in Florida, efforts are under way at the national
level to assess voting technologies currently available
and make recommendations for a uniform national voting
system. Most recently, MIT and Caltech formed a commission
to look into the voting technology alternatives and came
up with a preliminary assessment that a new generation
of mechanical voting systems - similar to New York City's
current machines but lighter (therefore reducing the number
of incidents of dropped machines with smashed parts),
stronger, less subject to malfunction and with bigger
ballot arrays to accommodate the multiparty choices now
available. (New York State's ballot has become much more
complex in recent years with the birth and growth of new
New York City voters are often
puzzled where to vote - both in terms of finding the building
in which voting takes place and once inside, finding the
correct line to stand in for their Election District.
Standing in the wrong line results in the polling clerk
being unable to find the voter's name in the election
district book, therefore delays voting or the casting
of "affidavit ballots," which if cast in the wrong election
district are subsequently discarded.
The causes of polling place problems include
- Incompetent inspectors: the same internal structural
problems that affect the Board (see below) also affect
the personnel at the polling places. Democratic and
Republican District Leaders whose interest is to reward
party loyalty rather than competence or intelligence
select inspectors, clerks, translators and supervisors.
Furthermore, the ranks of party loyalists have thinned
dramatically in recent years as party apparatuses have
shrunk and given way to professional staffing of campaigns
by pollsters, media consultants and the like. In addition,
the increase in full-time work for women has shrunk
the occasional-worker force and inflation has reduced
the value of the $10 per day (for a 16-hour workday,
from 5:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.)) As a result, the polling
places are often short of their full complement of staff.
The staff is also barely literate - unable to carry
out simple tasks such as finding a name in alphabetical
order, much less adjudicating issues such as when to
use "affidavit ballots" versus "emergency" ballots and
how to direct the voter to the correct line
- Inadequate location notice: decades ago, party
volunteers placed notices in multifamily dwellings to
tell voters which polling place location to vote in.
With the decline of party strength this custom has been
dropped in many places. Board of Elections notices to
voters where to vote arrive erratically in mailboxes.
And polling place locations must be changed when sites
become unavailable as a result of school crowding, building
renovations and the like.
- Names missing from poll books: voters standing
in the wrong line, as noted above, often fail to have
their votes counted. In addition, administrative problems
at Board of Elections headquarters (see below) lead
to voter registration forms being lost, ignored or wrongly
- Lack of phone lines: the Board has insufficient
emergency phone lines to answer questions from poll
workers on Election Day such as reporting broken machines.
BOARD OF ELECTIONS ADMINISTRATION:
The Board of
Elections and its staff are required by law to be selected
by the Democratic and Republican Party leaders. As a result,
every decision requires the assent of individuals whose
stake in efficient administration is much less weighty
than their stake in party self-interest. For example,
when a worker should be disciplined for failure to show
up, failure to carry out tasks such as voting machine
maintenance or computerization of voter registration information
efficiently, board officials often refuse to discipline
workers from their own party. As each side is included
to settle for a standoff, board staff escapes disciplinary
action and are maintained on the payroll for years even
if they function poorly.
A. SHORT TERM
Recruit competent inspectors: Candidates should
pledge to ask their supporters to serve as election inspectors
and make appeals to students, part-time workers, volunteer
and home workers to come forward to take on this critical
task of citizenship. Persons with language skills are
particularly needed in neighborhoods with large immigrant
Increase pay for election inspectors and voting machine
engineers and repairmen: Candidates for public office
should support a budget increase for the Board of Elections
to increase polling place staff stipends and wages for
voting machinery repair staff.
Provide more phoine lines for the board of elections
help line: Candidates should support a budget increase
for the Board of Elections to enable them to provide at
least triple the number of emergency lines to Board headquarters.
In this way, polling workers can get through to solve
problems on election days.
B. LONG TERM
Restructure the board of elections and its staff:
State legislation should be enacted to transform the county
Boards of Elections into line agencies of county government.
Election administration should be taken over by a gubernatorial
appointee (the Secretary of State is most often the responsible
official in states with competent election management).
Bring the voter rolls up to date and manage them statewide:
The voter rolls, like the motor vehicle rolls, should
be administered and computerized statewide to create a
single up-to-date and all-inclusive list of voters, which
can then be organized by election district and transmitted
to polling places.
Purchase new voting machinery: A single statewide
method for counting votes should be decided upon and new
machinery purchased statewide.
Weekend and holiday voting: By action of Congress
for general elections and of the state legislature for
primaries, voting should take place on weekend or holiday
dates. This would spread voting out over an entire day
and make it far easier to recruit competent inspectors.
II. BALLOT ACCESS
New York State law governing the placement of candidates'
names on the ballot is famously difficult - the number
of legal challenges in this state alone surpasses the
entire rest of the nation. Signature requirements and
the legal documentation surrounding the signature gathering
process create the opportunity for party leaders and competing
candidates to carry out extended legal procedures from
the time petitions are filed until - and after - the ballots
Solution: candidates should support state legislation
to reduce and radically simplify the signature requirements
for ballot access.
III. CAMPAIGN FINANCE
New York City has among the best public campaign finance
systems in the nation and New York State, among the worst.
The city system provides for public matching funds for
small donations from constituents at a rate of $4 in public
money for every $1 raised. This public finance makes it
possible for candidates of ordinary means to have enough
money to buy the basic materials to let the voters know
their stands on the issues and their qualifications for
office. In addition, the city law mandates (for candidates
who voluntarily opt into the system) limits on contributions,
caps on spending, and full disclosure of all donations.
Candidates should indicate their continuing support for
the city's campaign finance law against challenges from
Mayor Giuliani. And they should signify their support
for the Goodman Bill, S5231, which provides for New York
State to adopt the basic features of the New York City
system, including a $4 public match for every $1 raised
in modest contributions from constituents in each race.
What is this?
Gotham Gazette's Searchlight on Campaign 2001 offers a comprehensive
look at what is being called New York City's most significant
campaign season in modern history. (See the left-hand column
for an explanation).
Districts of the Week
1 -- Lower Manhattan
Whoever wins the election in district 1 will represent immigrant
Chinese garment workers, as well as Wall Street traders living
in Battery Park City. There are several candidates hoping
to be the council's firsts -- the first Asian-American man,
the first Asian-American woman, the first gay Rhodes Scholar,
the first dot-com guru -- running against some politically
well connected opponents. Endorsements and fundraising will
play a big role in this race. But voter turnout could be the
main determinant of who will next represent district 1 on
the council. The key question is how many voters from each
community will come out on Election Day.
7 -- Washington Heights, Manhattan
The northern tip of Manhattan has become one of the most popular
places for new immigrants to call home. The northern tip of
Manhattan is a place that today's new immigrants call home.
The majority have come from the Dominican Republic, but also
from countries in South America, Eastern Europe, and Asia.
But it is not just new immigrants that are moving in. Students,
artists, and other Manhattanites looking for less expensive
rents and larger apartments have also moved north. Ten Democratic
candidates are competing for the 15,000 voters expected on
primary day. The winner who emerges from a crowded field of
candidates will have to balance the needs of the newcomers
with those who have lived there for years.
16 -- Highbridge, Bronx
The neighborhoods of district 16 are the city's poorest, with
the highest rate of unemployment and the lowest median household
income. But those who live there also point out that much
is positive and stable about the area, thanks in large part
to local organizations, not-for-profit agencies, and houses
of worship that help hold the neighborhoods together. Each
candidate for City Council believes that through his or her
connections to churches and local organizations, they can
help empower the community toward a better life. Helen Foster,
the current council member daughter, will face Michael Benjamin,
who has worked as an aide to several government officials
and Anthony Curry, a Bronx neighborhood activist.
20 -- Northeast Flushing, Queens
This year district 20 may elect the first Asian-American ever
to the City Council to an area which now has the second highest
number of immigrants from Korea and Taiwan in the city. There
are three Asian candidates in the Democratic race who have
each drawn big endorsements. Council Speaker Peter Vallone
endorsed Terence Park, City Comptroller Alan Hevesi endorsed
John Liu, and the New York Times recently endorsed Ethel Chen
The campaign has also drawn national and international press
25 -- Jackson Heights, Queens
Thirty-seventh Avenue in Jackson Heights, Queens is one of
the most diverse streets in the world. Little India quickly
blends into Little Colombia, with vendors selling Latin American
food to Colombians, Peruvians, Ecuadorians, Mexicans, and
Uruguayans. And each summer, the Queens Pride Parade fills
the same street with rainbow banners. So it is no surprise
that this election year the district produced a diverse field
of candidates. A number of them, however, found out that getting
on the ballot is not an easy task, especially when the Queens
Democratic organization sends teams of lawyers to challenge
petitions. But five Democratic candidates survived and will
face off on September 11.
31 -- South East Queens
When a heavy rain hits southeast Queens, many residents in
neighborhoods like Springfield Gardens, Laurelton and Rosedale
head to the basement with a bucket in hand. And it has been
that way for the last 50 years. In the rush to build housing
in the area after World War II, developers overlooked the
need for storm drains in hopes that the city would eventually
build a city-wide sewer system. The plan never materialized
and the area has experienced "100-year rains" three times
in the last decade. The eight Democrats -- all with little
experience overseeing massive infrastructure projects--will
try to convince voters that they can finally solve the flooding
35 -- Central Brooklyn
The residents in council district 35 have some of the highest
incomes in Brooklyn and some of the lowest. They can play
in a famous park and a beautiful botanical garden, and live
in the city's most crumbling public housing. They can attend
one of the four institutions of higher learning in the district,
and the worst-scoring high schools in the city. Such juxtapositions
are a way of life for a district that includes the Brooklyn
Academy of Music, the Brooklyn Museum, and the Brooklyn Botanical
Gardens; mid dle-class African-American communities near Prospect
Park; immigrant communities from Haiti, Sierra Leon, Nigeria,
and Trinidad, and in Crown Heights, a mix of Hasidic Jews
and African-Americans. Seven Democratic candidates are campaigning
in hopes that they can bring some kind of unity, and attention,
to the area. Their backgrounds are as diverse as the neighborhoods
39 -- Park Slope/Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn
The candidates in district 39 include a chief of staff for
an Assemblywoman, the husband of a member of U.S. Congress,
a lawyer for the Legal Aid Society, an attorney and president
of the Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats, Senator Hillary
Clinton's campaign manager, the district manager of Community
Board 6, and a labor organizer. This is the race to watch
this year. The group of high-profile Democrats have raised
a lot of money, almost $1.4 million combined.
45 -- East Flatbush
In no place in the city are the effects of campaign finance
reform and term limits being felt more than in East Flatbush.
The seven Democratic candidates seeking to represent this
largely West Indian district come from a number of Caribbean
nations. Many have been working on politicians' staffs and
serving with community groups, clearly hoping someday to win
their own elected office. Term limits has presented them with
that opportunity, and they want to make the most of it. But
this race that usually draws only about 8,000 voters could
be decided by just a few votes. The candidates are attempting
to come up with anything that will separate them from the
49 -- North Shore, Staten Island
Staten Island has always been somewhat of a suburban stepchild
to New York City. When a 1998 survey asked New Yorkers why
they go to Staten Island, the top two responses were ''visiting
friends and relatives" and ''passing through.'' But in many
ways, the north shore has more in common with areas of Manhattan
and Brooklyn than with the rest of the Staten Island. The
top priority for all the candidates -- Jon Del Giorno, an
administrative manager for the Board of Elections, Mike McMahon,
an attorney and counsel to current Councilmember Jerome O'Donovan,
and Debi Rose, an administrator at the College of Staten Island
and the first African-American candidate in Staten Island
politics -- is to make sure that the island becomes more than
just a turn-around-point for the over one million tourists
who ride the free ferry from Manhattan each year.
for Party Affiliation
Dream Party (AMD)
Better Schools Party (BES)
Friends United Party (FUN)
Fusion Party (FUS)
Harmony Party (HAR)
Marijuana Reform Party (POT)
Natural Law Party (NLP)
Party of Ethics and Traditions (PET)
Reform Party (Ref)
Right to Life (RTL)
School Choice Party (Sch)
Socialist Workers Party (SWP)
Working Families (Wor)
1 -- Deadline for candidates to join the Campaign Finance
program, qualifying for the four-to-one match of contributions.
5 - First day for candidates from the eight major parties
(Democratic, Republican, Indpendence, Conservative, Liberal,
Green, Working Families, and Right to Life) to circulate
petitions. Candidates running for City Council must collect
the signatures of at least 900 people living in the district
for which they are running in order to appear on the Primary
ballot. Candidates not running under these eight major parties
do not appear on the Primary ballot and have a separate
set of deadlines.
July 12 - Deadline for major party candidates to
July 10 - First day for unaffiliated candidates to
circulate petitions, in order to appear on the ballot in
the General Election. They must collect the number of signatures
equal to five percent of the total enrolled in that party.
August 7 - Board of Elections announces candidates
appearing on the Primary ballot.
August 17 - Last day for non-absentee voters to register
to vote in the Primary Election.
August 21 - Deadline for non-major party candidates
to file petitions to be included on the General Election
September 4 - Last day to postmark application for
absentee voting in the Primary
September 10 - Last day to personally deliver application
for absentee voting in the Primary Last day to postmark
absentee ballot for Primary
September 11 - Primary election; Polls open at 6:00a.m.
and close at 9:00p.m.; Absentee ballots must be hand-delivered
by 9:00 p.m.
September 25 - Runoff Primary election for Mayor,
Comptroller and Public Advocate, if needed
October 12 - Last day to for non-absentee voters
to register to vote in the General Election
October 30 - Last day to postmark application for
absentee voting in the General Election
November 5 - Last day to hand-deliver an application
for absentee voting, or to postmark an absentee ballot for
the General Election.
November 6 - General Election; polls open at 6:00a.m.
and close at 9:00p.m. in NYC; Absentee ballots must be hand-delivered
by 9:00 p.m.