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Rallying for Fair Redistricting in New York State

4:17 pm in Government, Legislature, Politics, State Government by Cynthia Kouril

A coalition of reform-minded progressive groups rallied on Saturday, March 26, 2011, in front of the office of freshman New York State Senator Jack Martins. The rally was put together by the New Roosevelt Initiative, founded by Bill Samuels. The purpose of the rally was to demand that Martins keep his word to pass a law in the New York State Legislature imposing fair nonpartisan redistricting.

Candidate Martins signed the pledge promulgated by Mayor Ed Koch’s NY Uprising; and was, for that reason, named a “hero of reform” by Mayor Koch. Martins campaigned as reformer, but when presented with an opportunity to pass Governor Cuomo’s Independent Redistricting Bill, reneged on his commitment.

“I believe voters are tired of politicians who tell them one thing before Election Day and then give them excuses instead of delivering when in office. Jack Martins is the poster child for promises made but not kept,” offered Jay Jacobs, the New York State and Nassau County Democratic Chairman.

Bill Samuels, the organizer of the rally, made it known that “[t]hose who signed the pledge with no intention of keeping their word to the voters need to know that there will be consequences come reelection time.”

“I applaud all the young activists that have shown an interest and taken on the vital issue of independent redistricting,” said Mayor Koch, the originator of the pledge that Martin foreswore. “Today’s event is about holding politicians accountable to the pledges they took and making sure they know we are still paying attention. The people of the State of New York expect their legislators to be honorable and to keep their word. For anyone who signed the Uprising Pledge, that means enacting meaningful redistricting reform that will impact elections next year.”

The coalition included:

-Act Now

-New York State Young Democrats

-New York State Young Democrats Caucus of Color

-New York Democratic Lawyers Council

-New York Democratic law Students Council

-New York Civic

-College Democrats of New York

-Nassau Women’s Democratic Caucus

-Nassau Young Democrats

-Manhattan Young Democrats

-New Kings Democrats

-Brooklyn Young Democrats

-Queens Young Democrats
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Tea Party Confusion

6:25 am in 2010 election, Politics by Cynthia Kouril

I heard a rumor floating around New York state blogging circles about Tea Party folks asking for poll watcher certificates in New York. I received a copy of their letter in response to a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request. The letter asks a county board of elections in upstate New York to issue poll watchers certificates to members of “Tea Party Patriots”  and  “Let Freedom Ring” and is on Let Freedom Ring’s letterhead.

The letter indicates that they would like to poll monitor, but not on behalf of any political party  or candidate.

We have recruited a number of citizens volunteers, who wish to serve as poll watchers / observers on Election Day, … .


These are individuals who are not seeking to be affiliated with any political party or any candidate for office.

The program is not organized or funded by any political party or candidate, so we do not wish to be be designated or appointed by a party or campaign committee.

Under NYS election law § 8-500 only political parties, independent bodies with candidates on the ballot (like the Rent is 2 Damn High organization), or candidates  can authorize poll watchers. I spoke to the letter’s signatory, Let Freedom Ring CEO, Colin Hanah.  He tells me that he was aware of this provision of law and that non-affiliated poll watchers cannot be credentialed. He said that the letter was “sent to establish that fact” and that it was to “set up an effort after election day for a legislative amendment to the election law to permit non-affiliated poll watchers.”

Tea Party Patriots have a blog post up on their site suggesting that it is easy for illegal immigrants to vote fraudulently. Why would an organization that has no history of fair elections work or voter education work (like the League of Women Voters), and no skin in the game in the form of a candidate, have standing to have poll watchers? What would be the rationale for unaffiliated poll watchers?  . . . Read the rest of this entry →

NYS Dem Convention: The Story Is Not The Horse Race

1:57 pm in Government, Politics, State Government by Cynthia Kouril

The traditional media has been looking for a horse race angle in the New York State race for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination. Breathless stories about the lack of diversity on the statewide ticket gasp, "OMG! We need a woman on the ticket for gender diversity!" They miss the real story, and I wonder about its implications nationally.

The simple truth is that recent polling shows Andy Cuomo beating Rick Lazio 60.3%-26.5% and Steve Levy  65.4%-22.8% , so unless he is caught in bed with a live boy or a dead girl (or some other scandal of similar proportions) Andy Cuomo is going to be the next governor of New York. With a lead like that he could run on any platform he chose.

The real story here, is that Cuomo is running on a populist, pretty far left platform. He’s been upfront and openly in favor of marriage equality, civil rights, the right to choose. He’s talked about education disparity being THE civil rights issue of our decade. He went after the bailout of the banks, which in turn did nothing for families whose equity in their homes vanished overnight, taking much of their life savings with it. Cuomo’s populist stance was emphasized as he took the podium at the state party convention, what with Bon Jovi’s anthemic "Work for the Working Man" playing in the background.

Even when he talked about not raising taxes — normally a conservative plank — he did so in the context of saying that it would be unfair to ask families who are late paying their mortgages to take on an additional expense to stay in their houses. It was a populist, working man’s, no new tax pledge.

He devoted a goodly portion of his speech to the topic of social justice, raising it more than once. I was interviewed after the speech by a reporter from Newsday and commented that I was pleasantly surprised to see that he had chosen to run from the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party.

I find myself wondering why. I know that sounds cynical, but he could have run on almost any platform and he chose to position himself pretty hard core to the left taking on the plight of the working man. That’s about as traditional a Democratic platform as we have seen in a while. The only traditional left constituency he appeared to disrepect was the teachers’ union; he called for the passage of charter school legislation that would enable NYS to quality for $700 million in federal aid.

Blanch Lincoln has recently been forced to tack to the left as she fights for her life in a runoff primary. Joe Sestak won his primary running to the left of both Specter and the White House. I’m wondering if Andy Cuomo has figured out that the way for a Democrat to win is not to be Republican-lite, but to pay some attention to the core principles of the party and to the base.