To Fix Longstanding Problems, the State Needs to Give Power Back to Voters Through Increased Ballot Access, Initiative and Referendum, and More Inclusive Primaries
Albany, NY – The results of New York’s second primary election of the summer are in, and they are the same as the first, with voters staying away from the polls in record numbers. According to a preliminary analysis by Unite NY, with 49 contests around the state, a total of just under 7.9 million New Yorkers were eligible to participate in the state’s second primary and less than 16% of voters bothered to show up at the polls.
A detailed spreadsheet compiled by Unite NY using data from the New York State Board of Elections shows only five races across the state had a voter turnout above 25%. Further, when the two hotly contested special elections for Congress are taken out of the mix, total turnout of voters drops to below 15% statewide. That spreadsheet is attached to this release.
On the heels of this historically mismanaged primary season, Unite NY is calling for reforms that will give more voices, more choices, and put power back in the hands of the people. Specifically, Unite NY is calling for lawmakers to revise New York’s onerous and restrictive ballot access laws to allow more candidates to run for office, give voters a direct voice in their government by allowing initiative and referendum in New York, and allow more people to participate in the electoral process by opening primaries to the 3.5 million New Yorkers not enrolled in a party – the second largest (and fastest-growing) voting bloc in the state.
Results in other states shows these inclusive measures work. For instance, California, a state with open primaries, had twice the turnout of New York on a percentage basis. Were New York to open primaries to the 3.5 million unaffiliated voters in the state and they turned out only at the same abysmal 15% rate, that would mean at least 525,000 more voters involved in the process – a 50% increase in turnout!
Unite NY Founder Martin Babinec said, “Unite has been chronicling our state’s broken system for the last 18 months, including how New York’s electoral processes lag reforms found in other states. The current election cycle highlights just how broken our system has become, with court mandated district lines and a confusing set of two primary elections with abysmally low turnout delivering the candidates we’ll have to choose from in the November general election.”
This additional August primary election, the second in eight weeks, was the result of the unconstitutional gerrymandering process, conducted by the ruling party in the legislature, that produced district lines so bad they were thrown out in court, heaving the election cycle into chaos and forcing taxpayers to foot the bill for a second primary.
The state’s first primary in June also had abysmal turnout, even with contested primary elections for both the Democrats and Republicans for Governor. Despite a spirited four-way race for the Republican gubernatorial nomination and a three-way race on the Democratic side, turnout for the June primary was paltry, with approximately 13% of registered Democrats and 16% of registered Republicans casting a ballot.
New Yorkers are now left with a stunning lack of choice this year due to the 2020 actions of former Governor Cuomo – who convinced the State Legislature to TRIPLE the threshold for a candidate to get on the ballot. As a result, seven entities tried to secure a ballot line for Governor, and all came up short. Now, for only the second time in our state’s history, and the first time since 1946, New York voters will be left with a choice of only two candidates for the state’s highest office.
Unite NY Executive Director Tim Dunn said, “When the choices voters have for Governor are so uninspiring that more than eighty percent of eligible voters stay home on Primary Day, the state needs to change the system to allow for more options. New York State has many good legislators and Unite NY is calling on them to collectively work together, step up and do what’s right for the people of New York.”
Given New York’s historic lack of action to fix its current problems, Unite NY is calling for the state to institute initiative and referendum. This form of direct democracy will allow voters to fix problems such as the state’s rampant corruption, restrictive ballot access, and lack of options for unaffiliated voters to participate in the electoral process.
Unite NY’s position is clear and direct, New York needs more voices and more choices, otherwise we are doomed to a cycle of low voter participation and a broken political system that puts party interests ahead of the issues voters are clamoring for.
About Unite NY
Unite NY is a new political home in New York State for Republicans, Democrats, conservatives, liberals, and independents to come together to seek common sense solutions. Focused on a non-partisan approach to fixing real problems in our government, democracy, and economy, Unite NY supports candidates who understand working together is the only way we can succeed. Learn more at www.UniteNY.org.