Making Democracy Work

Elections and Voter Information

We make voting easier through voter education programs.

A possible change in your polling place in 2014

During the past year, the Schenectady Board of Elections undertook an intensive examination of the polling places. The goals were to equalize the number of voters in each voting district and increase the number and accessibility of the polling places. They accomplished their goals and managed to reduce the number of voting machines and poll workers needed in the process.

If your polling place has been changed, you will receive 2 mailings from the BOE this fall. Be sure to read your voter poll assignment carefully. More information is available on the BOE website and at 518-377-2469.

VOTE411--Candidate Information AND Voters Guide Part II

Your One-Stop Shop for Nonpartisan Election Information!

Find out how to register, where to vote, what candidates are on the ballot in your district, and what some of their positions are.

If any candidate is not providing information, ask why not!

For Voters Guide Information specific to New York, go to http://www.Vote411.org

You can get information on the statewide candidates and three ballot proposals. Watch the video Vote YES Prop 1: Redistricting Reform Now. Click here to see the voter information.

Judicial Candidates Voter Guide

In New York State certain judgeships are filled by election, while others are filled by appointment. This Voter Guide provides information about judges who are candidates in the 2014 General Election.

The Voter Guide is available at http://www.nycourts.gov/vote and covers all judgeships except Town and Village Courts. This page also provides basic information about the different courts in the NY State Court System.

Schenectady Candidate Forum

October 8th, 7-9:30 PM
Black Box Theatre at Schenectady High School

If you missed the forum or just want to see it again, the forum was taped by Open Stage Media and will be broadcast on OSM channel 16/36 the following times:

October 12th,19th and 26th @10pm

October 16th,23rd and 30th @9:30pm

October 17th,24th and 31st @9am

It will also be available at Open Stage Media's On Demand .

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES CANDIDATE FORUM

The LWV Forum featuring Jim Fischer and Paul Tonko, the two candidates for the House of Representatives seat in the 20th Congressional District of NY which was held at the Clifton Park-Halfmoon Library on October 23rd at 7 PM was taped and is now available on YouTube.

This forum is available in its entirety at: http://youtu.be/G2T1w2rnYG4

It is also available broken down by topic:

a. Opening Statements: http://youtu.be/nit-S2PZg-8

b. Economic Policy: http://youtu.be/Q5MgtOGPBDg

c. Domestic Policy: http://youtu.be/8PD3000gdFE

d. Foreign Policy: http://youtu.be/yoO-RGz6El0

e. Audience Questions: http://youtu.be/FjqzK8fklgs

f. Closing Statements: http://youtu.be/xKMI36jnVSA

The Fischer/Tonko forum is now also available on http://www.openstagemedia.org. Select VIDEO ON DEMAND and then search for lwv. The video is labeled "LWV Meet the Candidates".

Q&A about the Proposed Constitutional Amendment to Reform Redistricting

Questions were raised at the League's September 30th presentation on the proposed constitutional amendment to reform redistricting (Proposal One). Sally Robinson, President of the State LWV, answers some of those questions.

Question: Is the current process of drawing district lines in the state constitution? Is a constitutional amendment needed to change the process? Will passing a constitutional amendment make it more difficult to make changes to improve the process? Response: The constitution now gives direct responsibility for drawing lines to the Legislature. LATFOR (Legislative Task Force for Demographic Research and Reapportionment) was established by statute to advise the Legislature. They can change the composition and/or operation of LATFOR but it is not clear they could delegate their constitutional responsibility by statute. The League has always argued for a constitutional amendment to ensure lasting structural reform. Any more ideal solution than Proposal One, even if it is a statutory change, would have to go through the Legislature and that is not going to happen between now and 2022.

Question: To pass a constitutional amendment, is a simple majority of voters sufficient? Response: yes.

Question: Why is a constitutional amendment needed? Response: The advantage of a constitutional amendment is that it will make it harder to change the redistricting process in the future. During all of the League's previous advocacy, as well as that of other good government groups, a constitutional amendment was always viewed as the better solution. If a redistricting process is supported only by legislation, it can be changed at the whim of the Legislature. So the best plan can be enacted in one year, and repealed the next. Given the interest of the Legislators in protecting their turf, any reins on their power to control redistricting is better than giving them the full power to control the process.

Question: What about the recent judicial decision to remove the word "independent" from the Proposal One ballot language? Response: This decision did nothing to affect the substance of the amendment, or the critical reforms it achieves, particularly the strong, definite and specific criteria designed to prevent political gerrymandering. With Citizens Union, the League developed a memo on this court decision.

Objections have been raised by other good government groups to the proposed amendment and the League responds.

Objection: Under the proposal, the Legislators will draw the lines. Response: To the contrary, under the proposal there is a Commission of ten people, none of whom can be Legislators, or other political figures.

Objection: The Legislators will be able to continue to gerrymander and thus protect their seats in the Senate and Assembly. Response: The Legislature can amend the Commission's plan after two up or down votes without amendment. However, the Legislature is bound by the same criteria which direct the Commission in its task to construct the maps. Amendment of a proposed map is not tantamount to beginning anew. Other brakes on the Legislature also prevent gerrymandering. These include the criteria which protect the rights of language and racial minorities and communities of interest and lines cannot favor or disfavor incumbents, political parties or individual candidates. (It was criteria similar to these which were relied on by the court in Florida to throw out the lines). The Legislature must obey these criteria. Further, there is a separate statutory requirement that any changes to the proposal not affect more than 2 % of the population in any district. There is no point at which the Legislature has unfettered power to draw the lines.

Objection: The proposal is not as good as the plan passed by the voters of California as a result of a voter referendum. Response: Voter referendums are not allowed in New York. In California, citizens can initiate laws, and if they garner enough support, have the proposed laws appear on the ballot. Thus, the voters in California could, and did, pass a redistricting plan which minimizes legislative involvement because the state Legislators had no power to defeat that law. In New York, all laws and constitutional amendments must be passed by the Legislature. For the Legislature to pass a redistricting law which eliminates their role in the redistricting plan is highly improbable. The proposed amendment may not be as good as California, but it is better than the process which exists in 37 other states!

Objection: It is claimed that the plan will result in gridlock and the Legislature will go back and draw the lines directly. Response: In point of fact, if either the Commission does not vote on a plan, or the Legislature does not pass a plan, according to

the procedures set forth in the amendment, then the courts will draw the lines, not the Legislature.

Objection: The proposal is faulty because it protects core districts. Response: We do not believe that maintenance of core districts is the equivalent of maintaining all the currently gerrymandered lines of a district. Maintaining the core goes toward compactness which is a favored result.

The proposal has strengths, most particularly, the strong, definite and specific criteria which are designed to prevent gerrymandering. These criteria specifically prevent the lines from being drawn to protect or disfavor any particular candidate, party or incumbent. These protections are not written as criteria to be considered and balanced, but as mandates that must not be violated.

The website, http://www.voteyesforprogress.org, is a resource for additional information on the issue. The website was developed as part of the League's campaign with Citizens Union, Vote Yes for Progress.

Voter Services Report

Voter Registration: This year, voters were registered at ten different sites on a total of 18 different occasions. The sites were:

SCCC (two times)
Bethesda House (two times)
SCAP (two times)
YWCA (two times)
SICM Food Pantry (two times)
Scotia Food Pantry
Salvation Army (two times)
Schenectady Greenmarket
First United Methodist Church
Free Breakfast
Planned Parenthood Hudson Mohawk Clinic (two times)

As a result, 75 completed registration forms were collected and delivered to the Board of Elections; in addition 34 voter registration forms and eight absentee ballot request forms were handed out.

Twenty-four League members volunteered to register voters---several more than once. Thank you Dianne Hartigan Alois, Ruth Bonn, Maxine Borom, Jonetta Darcy, Joan Elliott, Carol Fisher, Carol Furman, Susan Houpt, Sally Knutson, Helen MacDonald, Pat MacKinnon, Marsha Mortimore, Lynda Nichols, Inge-Lise Pangburn, Johanna Peterson, Mary Pritchard, Flora Ramonowski, Miranda Reed, Helga Schroeter, Bill Shapiro, Roberta Steiner, Barbara Vivier, Kat Wolfram, and Connie Young for your service. Thanks go to Lisa Dufek for organizing the Voter Registration efforts for our League.

The site that resulted in the most voters registering was Schenectady County Community College. The sites of lowest activity were the food pantries and free lunch programs. People

at these sites often remarked that they were not interested in voting because their vote didn't count or matter. Can the League play a role in educating more people about their rights and the importance of participating in the electoral process?

Candidate Forums: The LWV of Schenectady County together with the Schenectady Branch of the AAUW sponsored a Candidate Forum on October 8th at Schenectady High School. All candidates for local offices were present with the exception of one Assembly candidate who was absent due to a family health matter. The forum was filmed by Open Stage Media and televised numerous times before the November election on Time Warner Channel 16. Thank you to Dianne Hartigan Alois for making the arrangements for this successful venture; and to the volunteers who kept the candidates on their toes that evening: Maxine Borom, Betsy Chase, Cheryl Nechamen, Donna Phillips, Flora Ramonowski, Connie Young, and Linda Russo, the moderator and AAUW partner. On October 23rd, LWV Schenectady co-sponsored a candidate forum for the Tonko/Fischer House of Representatives race with LWV of Saratoga County.

Vote411.org: Information about local candidates for State and Assembly offices as well as local candidates was made available on this special LWVNY website. Thank you Pat MacKinnon for gathering and organizing information from those candidates representing Schenectady County. In addition the LWV chapters of the Capital Region financed 15 signs on CDTA buses advertising the Vote411.org information.

Kay Ackerman, Voter Services

Forum Information

Goal: to educate voters on the issues; to stimulate voter interest; to encourage voter participation in elections; to present programs in a nonpartisan manner

Policies:

1. All candidates for office who meet New York State election law requirements to be on the ballot and are involved in contested races are eligible to take part in candidate forums.

2. When more than one candidate for a state, county or local office is on the ballot and an invited candidate for state, county or local office does not respond or accept an invitation to the forum, or when a candidate accepts but does not appear at the forum, the candidate present at the forum may make a statement and answer audience submitted/League reviewed questions as long as this situation is made clear to the audience. The moderator will be permitted to announce that the absent person is a candidate for that office. No substitutes will be permitted to take the place of a candidate. The absent candidate will be allowed to submit an opening statement with the same time limits as the candidates present. The moderator would read the statement provided by the absent candidate.

3. No videotaping of candidate debates, or parts thereof, is permitted except by those previously authorized by the League of Women Voters to officially tape the event.

4. Candidates' literature will be allowed to be distributed on tables placed near the entrance to the forum location.

5. The League reserves the right to cancel the forum if circumstances warrant.

6. Candidates will be sent a copy of these policies when they are invited to participate in the forum. Any subsequent changes to the program format will be communicated to candidates prior to the program.

Explanation of the Primary Process in NYS

Presidential Primaries in New York State

The Democratic and Republican primaries in New York State are different in important ways, but have similarities. Both are "closed" primaries; participation is limited to the voters who have registered in the party that is sponsoring the election. While delegates are not bound by any law to vote for any particular candidate at the party's national convention, both parties have "pledged" candidates who vote for the candidate to whom they are "pledged". Both parties also have "un-pledged" and/or "super" delegates, who are not committed to a particular candidate. A certain number of delegates in each party participate because they occupy a particular elective or party position. Before the primary, candidates submit to the board of elections a list of delegates from each congressional district that are committed to them. These delegates actually appear on the ballot in the Democratic primary, along with a statewide presidential democratic candidate, but do not appear on the ballot in the Republican primary.

Details of the Nominating Process

Democrats: "Proportional" Primary, 281 delegates at stake New York Democrats have a total of 281 delegates, 151 of whom are "pledged" and will be elected proportionally based on the results of the February 5th primary within each congressional district. In addition, 45 are automatic and/or chosen from party leaders. The remaining 85 delegates are selected at a state Democratic committee meeting in May.

The Democratic Party in New York always uses a proportional method for awarding delegates. The percentage of delegates each candidate is awarded (or the number of undecided delegates) is representative of the number of primary votes for the candidate.

The Democratic Party primary in New York is really a "dual primary." Candidates for president appear on the ballot and run against each other in a statewide primary, and delegates and alternate delegates run in each congressional district. Delegates and alternates are either committed to a presidential candidate or uncommitted, and males and females are equally represented among the delegate choices for a candidate.

Republicans: "Winner-take-all" Primary, 101 delegates at stake

The National Republican Party, unlike the Democratic Party, allows each state to decide whether to use a "winner-take-all method" or the "proportional" method. In the winner-take-all method, the candidate whom the majority of caucus participants or voters support receives all the delegates for the state. New York is a "winner take all" state.

In New York, the selection of delegates and alternate delegates to the Republican National Convention is determined by a statewide primary of candidates for the office of President. Unlike the Democratic primary ballot, the names of the delegates and alternate delegates do no appear. Based on the results of the February 5th presidential primary, 87 of the state's 101 Republican delegates are allocated to the presidential candidate with the most votes statewide. At a Republican state committee meeting, the remaining 14 unpledged delegates are selected from party leaders.

Local Boards of Elections

City Council and Town Board Meetings

Schenectady City Council meets the 2nd and 4th Mondays at the City Hall, 7 p.m.

Glenville Town Board meets the 1st and 3rd Wednesdays at the Municipal Center, 7:30 p.m.

Rotterdam Town Board meets the 2nd and 4th Wednesdays at Assembly Hall, 7:30 p.m.

Niskayuna Town Board: Call 386-4592 for the schedule

Schenectady County Legislature Meetings

The Schenectady County Legislature meets the 2nd Tuesdays in the County Office Building at 7 p.m.

Local and State-Wide Political Information

Click here for political information about the City and County of Schenectady, the Capital District Area, and Statewide Politics.

The above is a web-site maintained by the SCHENECTADY DIGITAL HISTORY ARCHIVE, a service of the Schenectady County Public Library.

The League of Women Voters Education Fund conducts voter service and citizen education activities. It is a nonpartisan nonprofit public policy educational organization, which:

  • Builds citizen participation in the democratic process.

  • Studies key community issues at all government levels in an unbiased manner.

  • Enables people to seek positive solutions to public policy issues through education and conflict management.

Donations to the Education Fund, a 501(c)(3)corporation, are fully tax-deductible where allowed by law.