A Guide For The Last-Minute Voter
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Important Dates for 2002:

June 18 - First day party candidates can gather signatures for petitions

July 25 - Last day to file petitions

August 12 - New York City Board Of Elections begins hearings on challenges to petitions

August 16 - Last day to register in person or by mail for the primary election

September 10 - Primary Election

September 30 - Certification of general election ballot by State Board of Elections

October 11 - Last day to register in person or by mail for the general election

November 5 - General Election
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 New 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 the page. 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 City. This 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 government reform.

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 Staten Island, a couple in Queens (a senate seat and an assembly seat), one in Brooklyn, 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 no incumbents.

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 Queens. Some 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 [email protected] with 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 ballot.


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.

Eye On Albany 2002 is a guide to the races for the 91 seats of the New York State Legislature that represent residents of New York City.

Learn more about Eye On Albany

This is a work in progress, which we will complete in time for the September 10th primary -- with your help.

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