Someone in my office building asked me to explain what had taken place in the New York primaries on April 13. I said it was complicated and was willing to let it go.
But then the 2political podcast, featuring Arthur in Auckland, New Zealand, and Jason, in Washington, DC, gave it a go, and I thought I would do the same. For their benefit, I should note that the Republicans in this state only list the candidates, four in my Congressional District: Cruz, Kasich, Trump, and Ben Carson, who had dropped out of the race.
Democrats list the two candidates, Clinton and Sanders, and then the 4 to 7 delegates per Congressional district. (The districts may be of a similar population, but the number of Democrats vary). This article suggested voting for your candidate, but then voting for a mix of Bernie and Hillary delegates, since it’s unlikely that all of the delegates would go to either candidate. This argument made perfect sense to me, but to almost no one else.
There were several layers of voter issues/complaints I heard about, primarily from the Bernie Sanders supporters, because he was the insurgent candidate, who ended up losing by about 13 percentage points.
The thing that is the way it is, but could change
* New York is a closed primary state. This means that only people registered to vote and enrolled in a party can vote in that party’s primary can vote. I use the term “enrolled”, rather than the term “independent” because 1) it’s more precise and 2) there is actually an Independence Party in the state of New York that received enough votes in the last gubernatorial general election for someone to enroll in that party, or as a Conservative, Green, Working Families, Women’s Equality (essentially a creation of Governor Andrew Cuomo), Reform, and of course the Big Two.
In some primary states voting earlier, non-enrolled voters could vote in the Democratic primary OR the Republican primary (but not both). This is NOT the case in New York. The Democratic and Republican parties don’t want people not enrolled to select their candidates, rightly or not. Their concern that these nonenrolled voters might cause mischief. Those who lean toward the Republican party might pick the Democrat least likely to win in the general election, or vice versa.
There is legislation introduced in the state legislature to allow nonenrolled people to be able to vote in a party primary, but I don’t know what chances it has.
The things that are the way they are, but should change
* For already registered voters, any change to party enrollment was to have been requested by October 9th, 2015 in order for it to have gone into effect and be applicable for ANY primary election occurring in 2016. This is, BY MONTHS, the earliest deadline of ANY state. The cutoff to enroll in earlier voting primary states, such as New Hampshire, was MUCH later. I wrote about this in the Times Union blog on August 30, 2015, after analyzing the information offered at VoteForBernie.org.
And this October 9, 2015 enrollment deadline for existing voters is applicable for the LATER primaries in the state of New York, including the state and local primary races in September 2016. The deadline for new voter registrations and enrollment was March 25th. I DO think there was some confusion on this point, from people who thought they had until March 25 of this year to enroll in a party, whether or not they were new voters.
* In primary elections, voters in New York City and the counties of Nassau and Suffolk (Long Island), Westchester, Rockland, Orange, Putnam (just north of New York City) and Erie (Buffalo), POLLS OPEN AT 6 AM and CLOSE AT 9 PM. At 15 hours, this is the LONGEST period of any primary in the country.
In all other counties, POLLS OPEN AT 12 NOON and CLOSE AT 9 PM, which, at a mere 9 hours, is the SHORTEST period of any primary state in the nation. And not being able to vote before work is rather annoying.
Real, actual problems
Anecdotally, I was reading on Facebook about people who had been voting regularly but were suddenly unregistered. A plurality of these in my area were in Rensselaer County (Troy). Periodically, the local board of Elections sends out a postcard to ascertain whether someone is still at that address. The postcard is not to be forwarded. If the BOE gets the card back, voters are usually stricken from the rolls.
More substantially, 120,000 voters were stricken from the rolls in Kings County (Brooklyn), and other irregularities were cited. Moreover, many people across the country, including New York and California, are reporting problems with their voter registrations being changed without their permission. In New York, at least, an investigation has been launched.
Unfortunately, some folks have conflated the three areas, making understanding the process even more muddled. The long deadline to vote in the primary is a form of voter suppression, I suppose, even more so in the later primaries in the year.
Here’s how Albany County voted in the GOP presidential primary.