In sports, if you move the goalposts to prevent an opponent from winning, you can face a game day penalty, suspension or fine.
But in New York politics, when they don’t like how things are turning out for them on a local level, Democrats try to move the Election Day goalposts to give themselves an advantage.
In either arena, it’s a bad idea.
Given the recent disappointments at the polls for Democrats, especially on Long Island, Gov. Kathy Hochul might be tempted to sign a bill that would move odd-year local municipal elections to better-attended even years that feature races for president, governor and Congress. But Hochul would be wise to reject this bill as a matter of good public policy rather than bend to expedient politics to favor her own party.
Proponents in the Democrat-controlled State Legislature contend that their bill changing the Election Day cycle would increase voter turnout in county, town and city elections.
Public offices specifically mentioned in the state's constitution — district attorney, sheriff, county clerk and a slew of judgeships — cannot have their terms changed, which means there still will be off-year elections for those positions. New York City, where there doesn't seem to be a problem turning out Democrats, would be exempt.
But Republicans and other critics say the bill unfairly shifts the established order and results in state, national and international issues overshadowing vital local concerns. The state’s Conference of Mayors and New York State Association of Counties opposed to the proposed change, and officials in Nassau County have lobbied hard against it. As a practical matter, they also say the even-year ballot would be stuffed with too many bubble choices to fill out in the voting booth. As we noted before, the bill was passed in the final days of the session, without the public hearings and vetting such a sweeping and complicated change deserves.
After the recent odd-year drubbings, Jay Jacobs, the state and Nassau County Democratic chairman, complained that Democrats are less likely to vote in “off years.” Democratic turnout was nearly three times greater in the 2020 presidential race than in the following year’s election for county executive. “Democrats seem to be more focused on state and federal issues,” Jacobs offered as an excuse for this November’s poor results.
Could it be that Jacobs and his like-minded party members are missing the point of what Long Islanders were telling them this past Election Day? Voters are saying Republicans can best preserve their suburban lifestyle, a rejection of the more progressive message carried by state and city Democrats. Polls show that Hochul is remarkably unpopular with Long Islanders, including the growing number of independent voters not affiliated with either party.
Moving the goalposts is not going to solve the party's problems.
MEMBERS OF THE EDITORIAL BOARD are experienced journalists who offer reasoned opinions, based on facts, to encourage informed debate about the issues facing our community.