Thursday, September 02, 2010

A Test of New York's Barriers to Open and Competitive Elections

A Quinnipiac Poll released yesterday shows approval for the state legislature at an all time low, with record numbers of voters (more than half, in fact) saying they would vote against their own legislators.

As in the rest of the country, there is clearly massive discontent with the status quo. But whereas this has already meant that many incumbents around the country have been ousted, and a "tidal wave" of change is predicted throughout the country in November, New York may yet again be the exception.

We have long argued that despite wide-spread discontent in New York with our government, barriers to open and competitive elections -- including the power of party bosses and legislative leaders to punish dissenters, an opaque legislative process that makes it hard to hold individual office holders accountable, exceptionally weak campaign finance laws, a closed redistricting process, and arcane and difficult ballot access laws -- meant that voters could not adequately express that discontent at the ballot box. Over the past few decades state legislators have enjoyed one of the highest re-election rates in the country at approximately 99%.

Has the tide of voter discontent in New York reached so high a point that large number of incumbents will lose in New York, as they seem destined to (and in some cases already have) in the rest of the country?

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