Friday, December 09, 2005

New York State 2006 Election Information

Cross posted from DailyKos:

In this diary RenaRF made a call for a DKos project to gather, detail, and report pertinent information regarding the upcoming 2006 elections on a state by state basis. There are plenty of unclaimed states so please see her diary and claim your state.

With that in mind here is a start on New York...

The official New York State 2006 Political Calendar has not been made available yet. Filing deadlines and the like are contained on the calendar and I will make them available as soon as I have it for 2006.

In 2006 virtually all state and most federal offices are up for election in New York State. These include:

Governor
Lt. Governor
State Attorney General
State Comptroller
1 U.S. Senator
29 Members of the U.S. House of Representatives
62 State Senators
150 Members of the State Assembly

Most local elections are held on off-years. In other words, most local elections were held this year 2005. I'm sure there will be some local elections in 2006 but I am unaware of them and will not attempt to research or document them unless they are brought to my attention in some other manner. If you are a New York State resident and are aware of local elections going on please feel free to post about them in the comments of this or subsequent diaries.

In New York State the process for getting on a ballot is via petitions. The basic rule is that you have to acquire signatures of 5% of the party enrollment in whatever the district is that you are running in. In other words, if you are running in a district that has 100 democrats enrolled in it then all you have to do is gather the signatures of 5 of those enrolled democrats. If the same district has 1,000 Republicans then a Republican candidate would have to gather 50 signatures of enrolled Republicans in the district.

The petition process gets you on the primary ballot. Primaries are held in early September so there is not much time between primary and general election. The result of this is that it is generally advisable not to have a primary opponent. The tricky part of petitioning is that while it is fairly simple the rules on filling out petitions are also very exact. Petitions can be challenged and signatures and/or whole petitions can get thrown out on some very nitpicky technicalities. Therefore it is generally advisable that if your requirement is 5 signatures you ought to gather 50. If it is 1,000 then make sure you have 5,000. It is also necessary to train your petition gatherers well so that they know how to ensure the signatures they gather do not get challenged.

But wait! There's more!

Petition signatures requirements for statewide office are "not less than 15,000 or 5% of registered voters in the party whichever is less... of whom not less than 100 or 5% whichever is less, shall reside in each of one-half of congressional districts in the state." In other words to run for a statewide office you would have to gather 15,000 signatures with at least 100 of them in each of 15 of the 29 congressional districts in the state.

For all other offices the 5% rule applies... except any office:
a) citywide in New York City require 7,500 signatures
b) county or borough wide in NYC - 4,000
c) encompassing a municipal court district in NYC - 1,500
d) encompassing a city council district in NYC - 900
e) citywide or countywide in a city or county containing more than 250,000 inhabitants except for NYC or the county/boroughs therein - 2,000
f) city or countywide with population between 25,000 and 250,000 - 1,000
g) for any other city, county, or council district other than NYC - 500
h) congressional district - 1,250
i) state senatorial district - 1,000
j) assembly district - 500
k) county legislative district - 500

Umm... there are some additional provisions for offices that don't fall into those categories but that should give you an idea what New York election law looks like. Fun, huh.

Also up for election are party committee members. Party Committee members hold a two year term. They are elected during the primary election. There are 2 committee members per election district (what many in other states would call a precinct or perhaps a ward). The basic committee unit is the county committee. Not all counties hold their committee elections in the same year. My county (and therefore my committee seat) holds committee elections in even numbered years so we will have ours during the September primary this year. Many counties hold theirs in odd numbered years so they had their reorganization last year.

The petition process also applies to party committee seats. In most places the petition process is the election. If there are two committee seats in the district and two people gather enough signatures to qualify for the primary ballot in their district and no one else gathers any petitions signatures then those 2 people are now the party committee members for that election district. No election. If more than 2 people gather the requisite number of signatures then an election would be held as part of the normal primary election.

In many places committee seats are vacant. Given that the process is so simple (I took my committee seat by gathering signatures of my wife and 7 of my neighbors) I strongly recommend to everyone that they consider filling a committee seat in their town, city, or county. If the seat is vacant - fill it. If you are unhappy with your current town or county committee then go gather a handful of signatures and challenge them. In many places committee members are paper members only and aren't actually doing any real work. If they aren't doing it and you are ready and willing to do the work then do it!

I stated above that the county committee is the basic unit for the party committees. This is true. In my small town there are 2 election districts. This means in my town there are 4 committee seats. The 4 committee members in my town are simply a subset of the county committee representing the town in the county committee. There is no separate county committee. I am not sure how the process works in the major cities in New York State. Perhaps one of our New York City representatives can chime in and explain any differences there. But the bottom line is that I am the county committee member representing election district 1 in my town.

The other key thing of note for committees and this years election for Governor is that not all election districts are equal in size. Therefore committee members are not necessarily equal representatives of their party constituents. County committee members therefore have a weighted vote in county party matters. The weight of members vote is based, not on the enrollment numbers in their district but rather, on the vote total in their district during the last Gubernatorial election.

New York also has provisions for third parties that differ I believe from most all other states. I won't go into all those differences in regard to ballot access. However, the key difference is that New York election law allows for what is sometimes called "fusion" voting. Third parties can and often do cross-endorse the candidate from one of the 2 main parties. In New York the Conservative Party, the Independence Party, and the Working Families Party all have automatic ballot lines. This too is based on the last gubernatorial election but I've not read up on the particulars. There are also voters registered in the Liberal Party, Green Party, Right to Life Party, Marijuana Reform Party, and others. Candidates and citizens often form their own one-time party lines to give the candidate(s) another line on the ballot. I don't know all the particulars about how that is done either. A link to New York State election law is included below. The bottom line is that the Conservative Party usually presents Republican candidates with an additional line on the ballot. The Independence Party is all over the map. The Working Families Party tends toward Democrats but not always. Often the local versions of these parties are controlled by or at the very least heavily influenced by one of the two major parties. In my county both the Conservative and Independence Parties are controlled by Republican operatives. This gives a distinct ballot advantage to Republican candidates and often makes for the margin of victory.

This is also a source of trouble for the Republicans statewide right now. The Conservative Party (which can provide the margin of victory statewide sometimes too) is unhappy with the Republican Party right now and is making noise about running their own candidates for Governor, etc. This split would cause huge problems for the Republicans by almost guaranteeing them losses. It would also completely marginalize the Conservative Party. The result is a big battle within the Republican Party about how much to give in to Conservative demands and influence. It also exacerbates existing splits within the Republican Party itself.

Democrats statewide are less reliant on third party ballot lines but at more local levels we have to fight tooth and nail and often create third parties on the fly in order to come near to matching ballot lines with the Republican candidates. In some places I am sure it is the other way around. Third Parties also run their own candidates often enough with about as much success as third party candidates have anywhere else in the country.

I've probably covered more then you ever wanted to know about this sort of insanity but hey... welcome to New York!

All 523 PDF pages of New York election law which is most often described as "Byzantine" can be found here for your reading pleasure.

The main page for the New York State Board of Elections can be found here.

In the next installment I will attempt to detail the current office holders and some of the pertinent statistics for their districts.

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