About that exodus of female voters ...
Four years ago Wednesday, the "Access Hollywood" tape that featured President Donald Trump bragging to a chortling and cheering Billy Bush about sexually assaulting women was released. Trump was caught claiming he liked to kiss women before they could stop him and "grab them" by their genitals, and explaining that he was able to get away with it because of his fame.
At the time, the expectation was that the tape would cost Trump the votes of many women and any shot at the election. A month later, those predictions were confounded by Trump’s victory, and exit polls concluded the former reality TV star got the votes of 52% of white women. A more rigorous study later conducted by the Pew Research Center found that he won over only 47% of white women, besting Hillary Clinton among that group by two points.
How the WikiLeaks dump of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta’s emails an hour later moderated the effect of Trump’s comments on female voters is yet another complexity. But with new 2020 presidential election polls released Wednesday and Trump seemingly trailing badly, is he finally seeing the exodus of white female support that was predicted four years ago? Read on to find out.
—Lane Filler @lanefiller
A coronavirus conundrum
In yet another edition of Not Something We Expected for 2020, New York elections officials are trying to figure out what to do with voters who go to poll sites and refuse to wear masks.
The pandemic and poll sites being indoors combine to potentially create an unsafe environment for poll workers, other voters, and the maskless voter him or herself.
Guidance from the state Board of Elections is that county boards should "plan for each poll site to have an isolated, separate area in which poll workers may assist a voter that is unable to wear a mask."
Nassau is going a step further. Each poll site will have someone stationed near the entrance to offer a mask if a voter doesn’t have one, but if the voter refuses, the policy is that the voter will have to wait until all voters at the polling place have left, and then the maskless voter will be allowed in, said Bonnie Garone, counsel to the Democratic commissioner.
The hope is that the prospect of waiting will encourage voters to wear masks, Garone said.
There might be other reasons, such as shame: poll workers will wear masks from early in the morning until late at night. Then there’s Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s springtime executive order which says that individuals with limited exceptions "shall be required to cover their nose and mouth with a mask or cloth face-covering when in a public place and unable to maintain, or when not maintaining, social distance."
Yet neither executive order nor public shaming has fully stopped some New Yorkers from flaunting their masklessness, which has resulted in disputes ranging from shouting matches to a deadly scuffle.
In Suffolk County, poll workers will be trained to offer maskless voters free facial coverings and deescalate the situation, said Republican election commissioner Nick LaLota.
If that doesn’t work, workers should "create as much space as possible" in between the maskless person and everybody else at polling places.
LaLota likened it to what might be done if a voter arrives with a candidate’s name on their shirt, unable or unwilling to reverse or remove it. In those rare circumstances, LaLota said officials have ushered the person quickly through the voting process and tended "not to make a big deal of it."
But he said he doesn’t expect this to be a common occurrence.
Garone has similar hopes about voters who refuse masking.
"We're hoping that doesn't happen too frequently," she told The Point.
—Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano
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A guaranteed cost
Many of the budget difficulties the pandemic is causing Nassau County seem to be unprecedented. But one is a real blast from the past.
Thanks to Nassau’s nearly unique county guarantee, which says that any tax refunds generated by overpayments must be refunded by the county alone to the property owner who made a successful grievance, the county is barred by state law from recouping that money from the school districts and municipalities that benefit from the overpayment.
Nassau County had 80,086 property owners who’d filed a grievance and, not satisfied with the county’s offer in response, appealed. The number is staggeringly high because of County Executive Laura Curran’s reassessment plan, which is intended to fix a roll that became inaccurate and unfair over the decade since former County Executive Edward Mangano froze values.
In 2019, only 8,400 grievances were appealed. In 2018, that number was 8,109.
The number of appeals is also unusually high, county officials say, because filing extensions granted by the state to help taxpayers deal with the pandemic gave property owners five months to appeal, rather than the usual one month.
So what’s this going to cost Nassau in refunds? It’s not exactly clear, but there are 13,405 appeals yet to be settled or adjudicated. County officials say the average reduction for those granted reductions is around 5%, well within industry standards.
Using the roughest back-of-the-envelope calculations, if the current percentage of appealers granted no further reductions holds at 21% and the tax bills in question are close to the county property tax average of $14,872, according to the state comptroller, the county would end up paying 10,590 refunds averaging $743.60, or about $7.9 million.
So it’s not the end of the world, in a county with a $3.5 billion annual budget, but neither is it welcome when that county is looking at a two-year budget deficit of about $750 million thanks to the lost revenues and increased expenses of this pandemic.
—Lane Filler @lanefiller