State of Elections

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Tag: New York

Political Attire Bans: What Can You Wear When You Vote?

By: Samantha Becker

On June 14, 2018, the Supreme Court invalidated a Minnesota law that prohibited wearing any “political badge, political button, or other political insignia” inside a polling place on Election Day.” The ban was interpreted to cover a variety of attire, such as t-shirts, buttons, and hats, and versions of the law had been in place for over a century. In a 7-2 decision, with Chief Justice John Roberts writing for the majority, the Court ruled that the Minnesota political attire ban was unconstitutional.

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Flip and Flop: Federal judge lifts Michigan state law banning “Ballot Selfies,” but Sixth Circuit reverses four days later

By: Angela M. Evanowski

On October 24, 2016, famous singer and actor Justin Timberlake found himself in trouble after posting a “ballot selfie” on his two social media accounts, Twitter and Instagram. Timberlake, who is registered to vote in Tennessee, flew from California to his home voting county and posted the selfies in order to encourage millennials and fans to vote. However, to the surprise of Timberlake, the state of Tennessee earlier this year passed a law banning voters from taking photographs or videos during the voting process. Luckily, for this famous former boy-band member, he is not going to face any criminal charges or punishment for posting his ballot selfies. Continue reading

The Big Apple and Big Money: Matching Public Funds in New York City

By: Caiti Anderson

It seems that New York politicians can’t catch a break – or they just can’t stop getting caught for their indiscretions. Celia Dosamantes, a 25-year-old rising star in Queens, learned this the hard way. Arrested on September 7, 2016, Ms. Dosamantes allegedly forged campaign donations to receive the 6-for-1 matching funds during her failed 2015 run for City Council. While other news organization will surely cover Ms. Dosamantes scandalous trial, New York City’s unique and progressive campaign finance laws stand at the center of this story, and deserve recognition.

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NY Loophole Allows Individual’s $4.3 Million in Direct Contributions, Part II

By: Dan Carroll

As detailed in a recent State of Elections post, a misguided 1996 New York State Board of Elections (BOE) decision treating limited liability companies (LLCs) as individual people rather than corporate entities. The decision allows LLCs to directly contribute up to $60,800 to an individual candidate for statewide office while traditional corporate entities are limited to $5,000 in aggregate contributions to all candidates in a year. LLCs need not disclose the identities of their founders, membership or officers, so their political activities are difficult to link to their funders.

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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 Loophole Allows Individual’s $4.3 Million in Direct Contributions

By: Dan Carroll

Given the controversy surrounding the Supreme Court’s decisions upending federal campaign finance law in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission and McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, the average voter might be surprised to find out that federal law still prohibits corporations from making direct contributions to candidates for federal office and limits the amount individuals can contribute to a particular campaign. On the other hand, twenty-two states allow but limit direct contributions from corporations to candidates for state office.

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Hurricane Sandy and Election Day in New York: What Can we Learn From Disaster?

by Emily Lippolis

Big storms tend to bring out the Eagle Scout in all of us. Nature reminds us that we are not always in control of our access to basic necessities and our ability to move freely so we stock up and hunker down. When the storm passes, most of us end up a little better off. Now we know what our contingency plan is, we have canned goods and bottled water for the next storm, and we figure out what needs to be fixed around the house. You would think that the lessons most people learn from natural disasters would also inform our voting system, but sadly, they have not. If Sandy has taught us anything, it has been how weak our system is when it comes to overcoming disasters.  Continue reading

NYC League of Women Voters vs. Sandy & Partisanship: The Triumph of Community Over Mother Nature and the Need to End the Partisan Election Process

by Brenden Dougherty

The October surprise for the 2012 election cycle turned out not to be a terrorist attack or an extramarital affair, but rather a devastating super-storm that flooded portions of New York City and cut out power to millions of customers.  Many wondered if the damage to the city would cripple efforts to get voters to the polls on Election Day.  However, the League of Women Voters of New York City refused to surrender to the destruction.

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The League of Women Voters of the City of New York is an organization whose goal is to inform citizens about election matters and encourage citizens to vote.  On November 6, 2012, the organization pursued this mission with incredible vigor by assisting those voters affected by Hurricane Sandy.  Members set up a telephone hotline days before the election to answer questions from voters about whether their polling places would be open despite the damage from the floodwaters.  On the day prior to the election, league members answered more than 200 calls, and when the big day finally came, the League of Women Voters kept their phone hotline open from 8 in the morning until 9 at night.  Indeed, the organization was intent on ensuring that every resident in the city knew where to vote and how to get there, with particular emphasis on those without access to the Internet and those who were unable to withstand the heavy call volume coming into the Department of Elections.  As the League’s President Ashton Stewart stated on Election Day, “Our people power is minimal, but we’ve been keeping our four phone lines engaged all day, just letting people know where their nearest poll site is.”  Once the votes had been cast, the league’s work continued, with members traveling to polling locations to report the numbers to the Associated Press. Continue reading

Citizens United: Does it affect New York elections?

by Andrew Bruskin

The following is a follow-up to an original article written in the wake of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision.

According to several New York publications, not much has changed since this decision was handed down. The Campaign Finance Board states, “NYC already bans direct contributions to candidates and employs strong requirements for disclosure in order to preserve transparency and accountability. As it has for more than 20 years, New York City’s public matching funds program provides candidates with public funds that give small donors a voice to counterbalance the impact of special interest spending.” The New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG) states that this decision “will not have too much affect in Albany” anyway. “It is like the Wild Wild west right now anyway,” notes Blair Horner, the legislative director of the group. He further states that New York does not have restrictions on corporate campaign finance, so this ruling is minimal when it comes to New York’s electoral process. Corporations can spend-spend-spend away, with few McCain-Feingold restrictions.

Evan Johnston of the Examiner completely disagrees with the court’s ruling and with both NYPIRG and the New York Campaign Finance Board. Mr. Johnston says, “the ruling, which was to remove any restrictions a corporation might have otherwise run into in paying for virtually unlimited advertising time to sink a candidate who might propose something like term limits, or campaign finance reform, or any number of a host of public policy options that are remotely hostile to corporate interests. That is what New Yorkers need to be concerned about.” Continue reading

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