2 parties' power over NY voting unchecked

Charlie Rangel after winning re-election in New York

Charlie Rangel after winning re-election in New York City. (June 26, 2012) (Credit: Getty Images)

Dan Janison

Melville. N.Y. Tuesday January 26, 2010. Daniel Janison, Dan Janison

Dan Janison has been a reporter at Newsday for 10

bio | email

The general quality of campaign-law enforcement has long earned terrible reviews from New York State's good-government groups. But given the power over running elections that state law grants the major parties, it is hard to see how systemic reform might come about any time soon.

Bill Mahoney, research coordinator of the New York Public Interest Research Group, is among those who push for changes, particularly in campaign finance law. He said last week, "The state Board of Elections has proven time and again that they're completely broken and can't handle enforcing even the weak laws we have now." A more rigorous system, like one proposed by Assembly Democrats this year, should spawn an independent enforcement entity, Mahoney suggests.

Asked about separating enforcement duties from the board, John Conklin, a spokesman for the bipartisan board, said Friday: "We don't have a position on that."

The Citizens' Committee for an Effective Constitution, a nonprofit recently founded by longtime Democratic activist Bill Samuels, notes that New York is the only state that constitutionally requires state and local election boards, and in them, the political parties that get the most and second-most votes (Democrats and Republicans) appoint equal numbers of election commissioners.

"The idea is that the parties will keep a check on each other," the committee website states. "But there's no one to serve as a check on the two parties when they collude, leaving independent voters, 'minor party' voters and party insurgents at their mercy."

The mechanics of how elections are conducted under this partisan-duopoly come in for discussion every time a vote comes out close -- most recently, in the recanvassing of the vote in the 13th Congressional District Democratic primary in which Rep. Charles Rangel and state Sen. Adriano Espaillat, both of Manhattan, have been slugging it out.

BACK ON A LOCAL TRACK: Nassau Comptroller George Maragos, in the wake of his failed GOP primary bid for U.S. Senate, is setting his sights on re-election. "I have made a commitment to do the best I can for the public interest," he said Friday. "There's a lot of work to be done, to put finances back in order here in Nassau County. And that will be my focus, as it has been."

Republican Nassau Executive Edward Mangano said in April he will "absolutely" run next year. Both he and Maragos won first terms in 2009 in stunning underdog victories.