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Can absentee voting work for the NY primary?

A poll worker opens an absentee ballot.

A poll worker opens an absentee ballot.  Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan

Daily Point

Ballot or bust?

What would it mean if every registered voter was sent a ballot for the June 23 primary? Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo may be planning just that via executive order, NY1 reported Monday, and Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi said this week that “we're looking at any and all possibilities" regarding absentee voting. 

The move would likely face a legal challenge. However, Long Island political operatives and candidates on both sides of the aisle are thinking through the implications anyway, saying it would be a chaotic whole new world. 

“It will mean a lot of work for local Boards of Election to get that done,” wrote state and Nassau County Democratic Party leader Jay Jacobs in an email. “It MAY slow up the vote count. It WILL increase turn-out, but I am not sure just yet where.”

It would be a whole new situation for candidates struggling to get their message out. Some local politicos wonder what happens for campaigns without infrastructure or money to communicate to a large universe of voters. 

Meanwhile, the GOP response to the absentee ballot idea has been largely negative. 

State GOP chairman Nick Langworthy came out forcefully against automatic mailing of ballots, promising a legal challenge and warning about voter fraud barring “proper security measures.”

“There have been numerous cases across the country that should serve as a grave warning sign for the potential problems: ballot harvesting, ballots arriving late, ballots going to the wrong or old address, more than one ballot being delivered and bins of ballots that were never delivered,” he said in a statement. 

Nassau GOP leader Joe Cairo echoed the party sentiment to The Point. “We want to make voting as easy as possible for everybody,” he said, but “I’m concerned about voter fraud.” 

—Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano

Talking Point

Can't we all just get along?

Back in February, Steve Israel picked today to launch the Cornell University Institute of Politics and Global Affairs’ new print and online publication dedicated to furthering bipartisanship. 

Well, it’s certainly timely.

The Bipartisan Policy Review went live less than 24 hours after Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell all but declared war on New York and other “blue states,” and Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi answered with a firestorm of her own. Even Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo got into the mix during his Thursday coronavirus news conference, saying of McConnell’s take: “This is one of the really dumb ideas of all time.” Cuomo added: “What he’s saying is … don’t help New York State because it is a Democratic state. How ugly a thought.”

The Bipartisan Policy Review is slated to publish twice a year, and every article must be co-authored by a Democrat and a Republican. Examples in this first issue, which features nine articles, include a piece on bail reform by Democratic Suffolk County Sheriff Errol Toulon and Republican Washington County Sheriff Jeffrey Murphy; an article on safeguarding elections by Washington state representatives Derek Kilmer, a Democrat, and Jaime Herrera Beutler, a Republican; and an article on the assertion of war powers in Congress by upstate GOP Rep. Tom Reed and New Jersey Democratic Rep. Josh Gottheimer.

In interviews on Fox News and Hugh Hewitt’s radio show Wednesday, McConnell railed against “blue state bailouts” and suggested states pummeled by the coronavirus epidemic should look to declare bankruptcy, as some beleaguered cities and counties have, rather than looking to the federal government for help. Later in the day, Pelosi said of McConnell’s attacks, “‘I’m not bailing out blue states, they should go bankrupt.’ Really? Really? How insecure is he in his own race in Kentucky to have to resort to that pathetic language?”

McConell faces former Marine Amy McGrath, who made waves when her $12.8 million raised in the first quarter of 2020 topped his haul by $5 million.

Thursday afternoon, Reed and Gottheimer, co-chairs of the House Problem Solvers Caucus, did a Zoom call with Israel to officially launch the journal just before its link went live.

Asked by The Point whether it was strange to have to come out battling for bipartisanship when his party’s leaders seem hellbent on destroying the state he represents, Reed said, “What I do as a member, I lead the way I believe … I applauded what [Senate Minority Leader Chuck] Schumer and Pelosi were able to get for New York ... I disagree with McConnell that bankruptcy is the best option for states, and I think if he is actually contemplating and telling Americans to get ready for state bankruptcies, it shows we have some very serious problems here that we are only going to be able to address if we come together as a country.”

Asked whether he thinks this bipartisan kick stands much chance of making progress, Israel said, “After 9/11, there was this universal consensus that Congress would get more bipartisan, and that lasted about one month. This pandemic has created about two months of bipartisanship so far, and I’m not sure it will last. But I know it needs to, if this nation is going to move forward, and so that’s what we are trying to work towards.”  

—Lane Filler @lanefiller

Pencil Point


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Final Point

The mail game

The mail-drop game in the 1st Congressional District Democratic primary is ramping up. 

Perry Gershon has been sending postcards about his town halls since the fall but a letter discussing the coronavirus pandemic hit mailboxes in early April. 

The letter noted that Gershon was pausing in-person events, advertised a virtual town hall, and highlighted the coronavirus-related work of Long Islanders, including a lab finding “a way to 3D print safety equipment for medical personnel.” 

Now Bridget Fleming is out with a letter of her own introducing herself and her work, and highlighting her government experience. The piece is headlined with “FROM THE DESK OF LEGISLATOR BRIDGET FLEMING” but is paid for by the campaign.

The letter discusses county-level issues from septic systems to groundwater, and mentions the work Fleming has done in office during the coronavirus, such as “introduced legislation to study the impact of this crisis on our small businesses that are hurting.” 

The material went out Monday to tens of thousands and her campaign plans to send mail regularly down the stretch, according to a spokesman. 

Fleming will also be out with a TV ad Friday, visible here, that introduces voters to her work in office in the past and during the pandemic.  

Primary opponent Nancy Goroff hasn’t done mail yet, she says. 

It’s part of a changed campaign

Mail may be an even more crucial part of campaigns this cycle given pandemic limitations on in-person voter contact in the field. 

In the old world of say, a few months ago, Fleming’s campaign brought on a field expert, Mark Guarnaccia, as campaign manager. 

Guarnaccia, 30, was field director in County Executive Steve Bellone’s successful 2019 re-election bid. In that race, “Brookhaven was a big focus of ours,” Guarnaccia says. The town is home to approximately a third of the county’s population and a key piece of the puzzle for any successful CD1 candidate. 

The business of field operations has been entirely exploded by the coronavirus. But Fleming’s campaign argues that knowing the territory and utilizing relationships from previous campaigns will help in the new digital reality. 

For Guarnaccia, that means a shift from Brookhaven door-knocking to virtual meet-and-greets and organizing voter calling. 

Before the Bellone race, Guarnaccia, who is originally from Poughkeepsie, worked as field director for Liuba Grechen Shirley. In 2018, the outsider Democrat gave quite a scare to  Rep. Pete King, the long-term incumbent not seeking reelection this cycle. 

“Mark was an integral part of my campaign and I am so proud that he has stayed on Long Island and made a massive impact on our local politics,” said Grechen Shirley. “Mark is a natural organizer, leader, and political strategist and it has been a thrill to watch his career develop.”

Meanwhile, on the endorsement front 

The pandemic hasn’t stopped the CD1 Democrats from rolling out big endorsements, including Goroff nabbing the nod from the National Organization for Women Political Action Committee on Thursday. 

Fleming recently added to her list of local officials with the support of Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman and Councilman John Bouvier.

And Gershon got the endorsement of the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen Local 56 and the New York State Public Employees Federation.

—Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano