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Editorial: Call special elections to fill Albany vacancies

The New York State Capitol in Albany. (March

The New York State Capitol in Albany. (March 10, 2008) Credit: Getty Images

As the New York State legislative session swings into action, the 315,000 residents in the 8th Senate District, which stretches from Baldwin Harbor to Lindenhurst, have no representative. Nor are plans underway for them to elect one to send to Albany this year.

That's not how democracy should work.

Charles Fuschillo had the job until his surprise resignation on New Year's Eve to become executive director of the Alzheimer's Foundation of America. In Brooklyn, Eric Adams didn't return to the Senate because he was elected borough president. Over in the Assembly, there are now nine vacancies -- the latest created by the conviction Monday of a Bronx assemblyman. That means 1.8 million New Yorkers -- or 1 in 11 -- are without representation in that chamber.

Authority to call special elections for vacancies is held by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, who has been silent. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said Monday Cuomo should do so, but added that there may not be a point to it. Unlikely to be sworn in before March, new members would have little impact on the state budget, which must be passed by the end of that month.

Although the session ends in June, new members would get paid through December, along with travel expenses and other benefits. And why spend the millions on 11 separate elections since all lawmakers are up in this November's election? Left unsaid in the why-bother argument is that Democratic control won't change in the Assembly, but there is a slight-to-medium risk that special elections could upend the delicate Republican-Independent Democratic Coalition marriage in the Senate leadership if Democrats pick up Fuschillo's seat. Besides, neither party wants to spend any money on campaigning.

We'd prefer not to accept those cynical views. The foundation of a democracy is representative government, and more than 9 percent of New Yorkers aren't fully represented.

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