Credit: New York State Board of Elections

Daily Point

An ‘open’ primary — in this state?!

Due to the bizarre schedule shift forced this season by redistricting, the state Board of Elections will — just this one time — allow any registered voter to vote in any party’s primary on Aug. 23. 

Word of this potential game-changer is just starting to spread.

New York’s upcoming second primary of the season applies to congressional and State Senate races. The primary one month ago, run under the usual rules, applied to statewide and Assembly races.

Therefore, for the first time in local memory, Democrats may opt to vote in Republican contests, GOP registrants may vote in Democratic races, and “blanks” or registrants of minor parties may also vote in either major party’s primary.

Here’s how the board explains it in the directive: “If a voter is not in the poll book, after the inspectors ascertain that they are in the correct poll site, the voter has the standard options — seek a court order or vote by affidavit. If the voter is issued a court order — then they cast the ballot pursuant to the court order. If they complete an affidavit ballot, then under Election Law § 5-304(3) that application for enrollment change in the affidavit is effective immediately allowing the voter to cast an affidavit ballot based on that change.”

In other words, you can change your enrollment affiliation on the spot and vote.

Usually someone wishing to switch affiliation, and therefore to be eligible to vote in their new party’s primary, must wait — at this point in the season — until after the election to switch. Not this time out.

The board’s official change of enrollment guidance notes that as of July 5, all enrollment changes “will take place immediately” and will continue until what’s called the next “restricted” period which begins on Feb. 14, 2023. 

When the courts ordered the congressional and State Senate primaries pushed back to Aug. 23 from June 28, the Legislature had to enact adjustments in the election calendar. But in doing so, lawmakers did not adjust the enrollment restrictions to conform to the usual practice, as Douglas Kellner, one of the election board’s Democratic commissioners explained to The Point.

“The legislative leadership made a conscious decision not to amend the law to extend the restrictions on change of enrollment before the August primary. No one explained the reason to us,” he said.

Other states with “open” primaries, including in presidential contests, have always wrestled with speculation that one party’s registrants could get into the booth and help those they viewed as the opposing party’s weakest contestants win the nomination.

In this instance, the relevance of such a sabotage strategy, if used, will depend on the circumstances of each Senate and congressional district. Some don’t even have competitive primaries while others have very competitive contests where at least in theory even a small number of these crossover votes could have an impact.

All the primaries were scheduled to be held June 28. But when the state courts voided the 10-year maps for the House and State Senate, extra time was needed to redraw them. The Assembly primaries went ahead last month because they hadn’t been challenged in court in time for this year’s elections. Those are due to be redrawn in time for 2024.

Next month’s accidental open primary thus becomes just the latest twist in a one-of-a-kind election season.

— Dan Janison @Danjanison

Talking Point

Trotta extends thorniest of olive branches

When Legis. Rob Trotta voted Tuesday to override Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone’s now-dead veto of a bill that canceled the public campaign financing scheduled for the county’s 2023 elections, he surprised many political observers. Trotta said Friday he was “99.9%” that he’d side with Bellone and the policy favored by the good-government gang.

But once Democrat Thomas Donnelly cast a swing vote against Bellone and the reforms, Trotta, of Fort Salonga, chose not to cast a quixotic vote the Police Benevolent Association could use against him in his extremely conservative district.

Trotta, during the discussion just before the vote, did take the opportunity to decry the PBA and the influence of money in politics, attack Bellone, and then offer the county executive the “olive branch” that they could work together to address this problem.

Trotta argued that the $2.6 million the public campaign financing would cost is peanuts compared to what the PBA harvested in its last contract, thanks to the unfair influence it gains from its huge contributions. In Trotta’s figuring, Bellone has received $2 million from the PBA’s super PAC, and the raises in the cop contract cost $200 million more than they would have if matched to cost-of-living. 

To Trotta that’s a direct cost to the taxpayers, caused by the PBA’s largesse to Bellone, who negotiated the contract. Bellone’s response is that a contract arrived at under mandatory arbitration would have been far more expensive.     

Trotta also argued that Bellone could simply tell the police commissioner to stop letting cops, including those who work for the union, appear in political messaging in uniform and collect money for political aims, which Trotta says violates the law. Bellone said there was no way he could comment on that off the cuff, without knowing what has been happening and what the exact rules are.

But Trotta’s most interesting suggestion was that “olive branch,” the offer to work with Bellone to fix the problem. Trotta’s idea is a Suffolk County equivalent of the federal Hatch Act, passed in 1939, that severely limits the political activity of many federal government employees, like FBI agents.

Bellone, reached by phone, wasn’t ready to sign off as for or against that on a moment’s notice, either.

But he was ready to tee off … on Trotta. 

“He had an opportunity to be supportive of this public campaign finance bill,” Bellone said. “He led people to believe he’d be supportive of it, and it’s the only real tool we have to fight the corrosive effect of big money in politics, which I’ve fought my whole career. He didn’t. 

“We passed something. It could have helped. That opportunity has now been lost, and Rob Trotta has again exposed himself as a hypocrite.”

— Lane Filler @lanefiller

Pencil Point

The Disunited States of America


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Final Point

AOC versus JR in NYC sideshow

Open sniping laced with personal animus is all the rage within both major parties, with less than a month left to the congressional and State Senate primaries.

Besides testy Republican congressional fights in Suffolk, and equally fractious Democratic scraps in Nassau County, an eye-catching feud between progressive incumbents in Queens has spilled over publicly. Curiously, the combatants in that one aren’t even running against each other — only seeking reelection to their state and federal seats in their overlapping districts.

Last week, a Twitter user identified as “Daniel,” a medical student, complained that health policy academics tried to meet with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez but that someone in her office said they weren’t currently focused on the issue. The account user accused AOC of instead “doing performative resistance art” for publicity. The congresswoman replied she hadn’t been aware of this and invited communication through her “DM’s” or direct messages.

But second-term State Sen. Jessica Ramos chose to broaden the matter by jumping in with an unrestrained smack at AOC. In part of the thread, Ramos said: “Our district offices are on the same floor in the same building. She (AOC) is barely ever present in the community. It’s an indisputable fact.”

Ramos also tweeted to AOC: “Just saying it would be nice if you breathed our air.”

What’s this neighborhood fight about? An ally of Ramos told The Point that the clash between the senator and the congresswoman appears more about their local working relationship than ideological. AOC is a member of the Democratic Socialists of America, busy endorsing preferred primary candidates away from the district — while Ramos isn’t in DSA but has aligned with that group on some issues.

Ramos said she hasn’t had access, and gave up trying to text AOC and reach out through staff. “I have not spoken to my congressperson in months,” she said. “Maybe a year …”

Another state political source said: “It’s a matter of hubris — and a bit of history repeating itself. [Former Rep.] Joe Crowley focused more on national ambitions than the district, and Jessica Ramos thinks she’s in a position to school AOC.”

It was during the last round of midterm congressional races in 2018, amid a rising backlash against President Donald Trump and the GOP, that AOC pulled a shocking upset over Crowley, the district’s longtime incumbent and Queens Democratic chairman. The conventional thinking afterward was that Crowley had taken the district for granted.

In the same primary four years ago, Ramos unseated three-term Democratic State Sen. Jose Peralta.

The Ramos-AOC feud is unlikely to affect any of this year’s Democratic incumbencies. Other intraparty battles in the region are center stage. Manhattan serves as Exhibit A in the region: East Side Rep. Carolyn Maloney’s new ad against West Side Rep. Jerrold Nadler for a newly crafted district.

That ad says: “You cannot send a man to do a woman’s job.”

— Dan Janison @Danjanison


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