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Opinion

Rocking the vote

Nancy Goroff, a Stony Brook resident with two

Nancy Goroff, a Stony Brook resident with two daughters, is taking an 18-month leave of absence to campaign full time. Credit: Handout

Daily Point

Strong financial backing

The Democratic primary in New York’s 1st Congressional District is shaping up to be a big and expensive fight. 

Newcomer Nancy Goroff, a Stony Brook University chemistry professor, pulled in a whopping $521,006 in net contributions in her first quarter of campaigning, according to campaign finance filings released this week. 

That’s more than Perry Gershon’s $199,278 over the same time period, and it’s more than the $446,579 the East Hampton businessman raised in his first quarter of campaigning when he ran against Rep. Lee Zeldin in the last cycle. 

Goroff also on Friday landed an endorsement from Emily’s List, the influential group backing Democratic female candidates who support abortion rights. 

Her filings with the Federal Elections Commission point to some of her other sources of support: 35 donations, many of them large, come from people who identify their employer as Renaissance Technologies, the East Setauket-based hedge fund where Goroff’s ex-husband worked. 

Renaissance has a somewhat schizophrenic political reputation, given the Republican spending of one of its former co-chiefs, Robert Mercer, and the Democratic donations of founder Jim Simons (who donated to $2,800 to Goroff this year). 

Goroff and Gershon’s filings demonstrate both campaigns fighting for Democratic bigwig support, with Gershon landing contributions from New York Rep. Carolyn Maloney and Rhode Island Rep. David Cicilline, a member of House Democratic leadership. 

Goroff received $2,500 from the Elect Democratic Women political action committee, a group led by female members of the House. 

That contribution, though, was earmarked through the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee — which raised some eyebrows as DCCC support would not typically come to a primary candidate. 

DCCC spokeswoman Christine Bennett said in a statement: “It’s not uncommon for campaign committees to help deliver outside group's donations to candidates."

However, the DCCC’s September filing shows earmarked disbursements to various political committees, but none for newcomer primary challengers like Goroff.  

Bennett said the DCCC has yet to pick favorites. “The DCCC has yet to announce any Red to Blue candidates in districts across the country, including New York's 1st Congressional District.”

Regardless, everyone should be one big happy family next week, when both Goroff and Gershon head to D.C. for a candidate training event … run by the DCCC.

—Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano

Talking Point

Flying high

An eternal truth of politics: There will always be election-season mailers on the taxpayers’ dime that straddle the line between public information and campaign assistance. This week, the six Democrats in Long Island’s State Senate delegation just happened to send out informational flyers heralding the state’s new voting law.

“Attention Voters,” the flyer reads in big block letters, and a little further down in italics it says, “Vote Early.” The flipside lists the location of the voter’s closest early polling place and the days and times it will be open from Saturday, Oct. 26 to Sunday, Nov. 3. 

State legislative seats are not on the ballot this year, but local town and county races are up for grabs.

When Republicans controlled the State Senate, early voting bills were blocked on the assumption that getting the vote out in bigger numbers helped Democrats. No wonder voters in the three Senate districts held by Republicans in Suffolk County haven’t received similar mailings.

—Rita Ciolli @RitaCiolli

Pencil Point

A new clause

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Reference Point

On voting reforms

As New York embraces voting reforms passed this year by the State Legislature, it’s worth remembering where the state once was on voting laws and why changing them is so difficult.

In 1955, Newsday’s editorial board celebrated the success of an “experiment” in Nassau County — allowing people to register permanently to vote. That’s right. New Yorkers once had to register every year for the right to vote. That gave rise to the phrase “stand in line twice to vote once.”

The League of Women Voters fought for years to have New York join the vast majority of other states that had “permanent personal registration” systems. The board backed the effort in 1950, terming the practice of registering annually “queuetopia” and lamenting the impact it had on what was even then notoriously low turnout rates.

In 1951, Newsday’s board again went to bat for the reform, which was stuck in committee in the State Legislature, noting that permanent personal registration (PPR) would reduce voting irregularities. And it linked opposition to the bill that would authorize PPR to party bosses.

“People now must be urged to vote. If they must turn out to register first the job of urging is twice as difficult,” the board wrote on Jan. 10, 1951. “Machine politicians know that. As they oppose PPR, the assumption is they do so to control elections. They urge only people who will vote for their own party to show up on election day. That may be crafty politics. It is not in the public interest because it hampers full functioning of government by the people.”

A bill finally was passed in 1954 allowing individual counties to adopt the system. Nassau was picked as a test case. And a record 410,000 people turned out to register.

“Nassau has shown the way,” the board wrote on Oct. 18, 1955. “Its record turnout in the worst weather proves that PPR attracts voters to the polls. Once permanently registered, they are more likely to vote on election day, thus increasing the number of ballots cast in every election.”

Of course, the sobering perspective is that 64 years later to the day, we’re still passing reforms that attempt to lift New York’s still-abysmal turnout rate.

—Michael Dobie @mwdobie

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