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Fusion Voting in Up Close: A Look at the Independence Party of New York

By: David Schlosser

Last year Brad Smith provided this blog with a post that gives an overview of fusion voting laws in New York State. In this post I would like to look into a case study that, for some, sheds some doubt on the desirability of fusion voting laws.

The Independence Party of the State of New York (IPNY) is a minor party that states on its website, “candidates and elected officials should be free to tell the voters what their views are, without dictates from political party bosses, special interest groups and restrictive party platforms.” With this in mind, in most elections the IPNY has preferred to endorse major party candidates under the fusion voting system, rather than nominate their own (they last endorsed Andrew Cuomo for governor, for instance). Because of fusion voting laws, the IPNY appears on the ballot year-in year-out, despite this general (though not absolute) refusal to nominate separate candidates. This is coupled with a lack of discernable political position, which sharply contrasts to many of New York’s other minor parties that owe their existence to the fusion system, such as the Conservative Party (on the right) and the Working Families Party (on the left). One New York Times columnist called the IPNY, “a bizarre amalgam of right-wing populists married to black leftists and once led by Fred Newman, a Marxist therapist…” In the party’s defense, its website does include a few statements on policy positions, such as an opposition to Common Core and a support for the Dream Act.

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NY (redistricting): New York on the clock to redistrict

by Alex Custin

New York faces a few interesting challenges in this round of redistricting. First, a law passed last year now requires inmates to be counted in the district they’re from rather than where they’re imprisoned. Second, New York is losing two congressional districts. Third, the governor has threatened to veto any redistricting plan that’s a political gerrymander. Finally, the requirement that military absentee ballots be sent out 45 days before the election means that New York has to hold its primaries earlier than usual, and the district lines have to be determined before then. The combination of these challenges means that New York has to redraw more district lines than it otherwise would and that it has to get its act together soon in order to have a plan in time.

The first challenge will affect both districts where prisons are located and districts from which the inmates came. Since population is the usual number used in order to draw district lines, districts with prisons will have to increase in size to remain equally populated and the districts that produce large numbers of inmates will have to shrink. Continue reading

No Prize for Finishing Second? New Hampshire Law Change Helps Confirm “First-in-the-Nation” Primary

As the commentary of political pundits drifts beyond the subject of the 2010 midterm elections, and prospective candidates for the U.S. presidential election of 2012 begin strategizing for their impending campaigns, the legislators of New Hampshire have taken the opportunity to assert one clear priority: New Hampshire comes first!

In early 2010, New Hampshire lawmakers drafted an amendment to state election statutes inserting the following phrase into the chapter of the state code addressing the scheduling of presidential primary elections: “The purpose of this section is to protect the tradition of the New Hampshire first-in-the-nation presidential primary”. Formally known as HB 341, the amendment was signed into law earlier this summer by New Hampshire Governor John Lynch, putting national Democratic and Republican party organizers on notice as they draft their schedules for the forthcoming 2012 primary season. Continue reading

The Nightmares from Bridgeport

As the November election entered the early afternoon, poll workers in the City of Bridgeport, Connecticut began to notice something strange.  With many hours of voting left, there was an unusually small amount of ballots remaining. Those concerns quickly turned to nightmares as precincts all across the city ran out of ballots. Confusion and tempers grew as fast as the lines voters were forced to stand in.  People began to turn away without voting, their civic duty inaccessible.

Registrars were told by the Secretary of State to photo copy ballots at the city print shop.  They began delivering the needy precincts packets of 100 ballots at a time. People who waited were given the opportunity to vote on a photocopied ballot. The State’s Democratic Party sued the City for not providing enough ballots and asked for immediate action. Superior Court Judge Marshall K. Berger, Jr. made the ruling that the polls at 12 precincts would remain open until 10PM, two hours beyond the normal closing. During this extra time about 500 votes were cast. Continue reading

Bye Bye Bayh, Hello Cougar

John Cougar Mellencamp, shown here considering the ramifications of the estate tax

Senator Evan Bayh (D) of Indiana announced his retirement from Congress on the eve of the filing deadline in the Hoosier state. In Indiana, Senate candidates are required to submit 500 signatures from each of that state’s districts by the filing deadline in order to appear on the ballot. However, no Democratic candidate was able to accumulate the required signatures in the day between Bayh’s announcement and the filing deadline. Still,  Democrats will get to field a candidate. Indiana election law provides “a candidate vacancy for United States Senator or a state office shall be filled by the state committee of the political party.” This announcement leaves the Indiana Democratic Party’s executive committee in control of selecting a candidate to replace the two-term Senator.

Bayh’s retirement may have come as a shock but an even bigger shock could result from the selection of Bayh’s replacement. The current Democratic frontrunner is Congressman Brad Ellsworth, but the blogsophere is abuzz with rumors of a possible celebrity replacement for Bayh. Indiana resident and reality tv star made famous from “The Girls Next Door” Kendra Wilkinson has some grassroots support for the position. Unfortunately for her, and fortunately for the people of Indiana, Ms. Wilkinson is two years shy of the age requirement to become a US Senator.

Another celebrity who could be a more serious contender for the seat is musician John Cougar Mellencamp. The Indiana resident is an ardent champion for social change, and he made frequent forays into the political realm with appearances at campaign events during the 2008 Presidential election. When the John McCain campaign used Mellencamp’s songs “Our Country” and “Pink Houses” at events during that same election cycle, Mellencamp asked them to stop using his song because he supported the Democratic candidates. A look at the lyrics in “Our Country” demonstrates Mellencamp’s support for the poor and the common man. The song advocates:

That poverty could be just another thing
and bigotry would be
Seen only as obscene
And the ones that run this land
Help the poor and common man
This is our country.

Mellancamp is also a founding member of Farm Aid, an organization that raises awareness about the plight of the family farm.

Mellencamp would not be the first unlikely candidate to join the ranks of the Senate. Former Saturday Night Live alumni Al Franken defeated incumbent Republican Norm Coleman during the 2008 Minnesota Senate elections. Mellencamp may lack the resume of Senator Bayh, but do not count him out of the race just yet. He boasts a Facebook group, Draft John Mellencamp for Senate, with more than 5,000 supporters backing his official jump into American politics. Last month, film critic Roger Ebert tweeted, “John Mellencamp (D-Ind.) has a nice ring to it.”

Mellencamp has not issued a release about his intentions to run for Senate but with his growing online support, the Democratic Party of Indiana may want to tune their dials to a Mellencamp nomination.

Martina Mills is a student at William & Mary Law School

Link:http://electls.blogs.wm.edu/2010/03/10/bye-bye-bayh-hello-cougar/

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New Jersey’s Off-Off Year Elections

On Monday, Dr. Quentin Kidd explained the origins of Virginia’s “off-off year” elections. Of course, Virginia is not the only state with this peculiar tradition. New Jersey has also held off-off year elections since 1947, due to a similar quirk of the electoral calendar.

Prior to the adoption of the modern New Jersey Constitution, New Jersey governors served three year terms, with the last gubernatorial election under the old constitution occurring in 1946.  In 1947, the legislature proposed a constitutional convention which was voted on as a referendum and approved by a majority of voters.  The new constitution was ratified in 1947, and among many other changes, extended the governor’s term to four years.  This extension, however, did not apply to the current governor’s (Alfred Driscoll) term, who had been elected under the old constitution.  So, Driscoll’s first term, which had begun in 1947, ended in 1950.  When Driscoll ran for reelection, the term limits of the new constitution applied, so Driscoll’s second term lasted for four years.  The election to replace Driscoll occurred in November of 1953, and thanks to the new four year terms, every New Jersey gubernatorial election from then on naturally fell on an off-off year.

Although the New Jersey constitution gives the legislature the power to change election day by law, New Jersey maintains its tradition of off-off year elections, and there are no indications that the legislature will change this tradition anytime soon.

Anthony Balady is a student at William and Mary Law School and a member of State of Election’s editorial board.

Permalink: http://electls.blogs.wm.edu/2009/11/18/new-jerseys-off-off-year-elections/

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Virginia’s Off-Off-Year Elections

It’s like a quick fix for the electoral junkie who didn’t quite get enough the last go around. Every four years on the odd-numbered year after the presidential elections, Virginia and New Jersey hold elections for Governor (Virginia also elects its Lieutenant Governor and Attorney General as well). They are the only states to hold such elections at this time. These are called “off-off-year” elections because they occur two-cycles off the presidential election cycle (presidential election years being the “on” year elections, mid-term election years being the “off” year elections, and odd-year elections being the “off-off” year elections).

While odd election cycles might point to Machiavellian political games designed to enhance the electoral fortunes of one faction or another, the reason for Virginia’s unique place on the electoral calendar is really rather benign and has more to do with shifting populations, and arguments over proportional representation, and Virginia’s strong adherence to tradition than anything else.

After the census of 1840 was taken, it became apparent to everyone that the white population of the Western half of Virginia (the half that is now the state of West Virginia) far exceeded the white population of the rest of the state. Noting the disproportionate representation in the General Assembly favoring the Eastern half of Virginia, Westerners began calling for a constitutional convention to solve the problem, and the General Assembly soon complied. Delegates to the convention convened in Richmond in early October, 1850 and met for nearly a year.

In March 1851, while the constitutional convention was meeting, the Virginia General Assembly elected a new governor, as it had for the past 75 years for a three-year term. The newly elected governor Joseph Johnson was to take office on January 1, 1852, but in the ensuing months Virginia voters approved the new constitution which among other things expanded suffrage to all white male citizens 21 years or older who had been residents for at least two year and required the governor to be popularly elected to a four-year term. The constitution also prohibited the governor from serving successive terms, a prohibition that is still in place today.

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