Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Missed Opportunity for Reform

In a statement released Friday, a coalition of civic groups including the Brennan Center expressed their disappointment with Governor Cuomo’s decision not to allow regular elections to fill the six vacancies in the Assembly, instead issuing a proclamation for special elections. The special elections will be held concurrently with Primary Day and are likely to result in lower turnout, greater confusion at the polls, and potentially a higher cost to localities. The Daily News and the New York Times have rightly declared this a victory for the party bosses.

Special elections have become an unnecessary but routine tradition in New York politics, where incumbent retention rates in elections are well over 90 percent and about a quarter of legislators were originally elected in special elections. The Governor missed an opportunity to break with political tradition and change an undemocratic process of selecting candidates that is dominated by party leaders — not voters.

The Governor accomplished a lot in the just finished legislative term. We hope that next year, he'll work to end the current, undemocratic practice of filling vacancies for state offices by special election.