Making Democracy Work

Elections and Voter Information

We make voting easier through voter education programs.

VOTER SERVICES NEEDS YOU

This is a busy time of year for Voter Services. We have voter registration commitments to meet, candidate forums to organize and election night returns to collect. All these activities are undertaken between now and November 9th! We are hoping every able-bodied League member will volunteer to help out in one capacity or another. For example, Planned Parenthood Mohawk Hudson would like us to offer voter registration opportunities to their patients when their clinics are open, Wednesdays 3-4 PM and Fridays 8-11 AM. We would like to be a presence at the Greenmarket in downtown Schenectady on Sundays 10-2 PM (shorter shifts could be arranged). In addition we would like to make arrangements to visit food pantries, and at any special events, festivals or gatherings that may take place between now and October 10th, the last day residents can register to vote in the 2014 November elections. If you know of an event where you think we could effectively reach County residents who may not yet be registered to vote please let us know.

Tuesday, September 23rd is National Voter Registration Day and LWV Schenectady County is joining other Leagues across the country as well as other organizations to bring voter registration to the forefront. On that day, we plan to reach out to students at SCCC, to folks going to food pantries and farmers markets and other places where people might be shopping or gathering to reach those who are not yet registered.

Please let Lisa Dufek, Voter Registration, 878-5160, or Kay Ackerman, Voter Services, 393-5000, know if you are available for an assignment on National Voter Registration Day + September 23 and/or for other days to help get more people registered to vote.

We will be conducting a Candidates Forum for local elections on October 8th at the Black Box Theatre at Schenectady High School. Candidates for NYS Senate and Assembly representing Schenectady County, candidates for County, City and Family Court Judge and two City Council seats will be invited to attend and share their views and respond to questions asked by the audience. Contact Dianne Hartigan Alois, 370-2191, who is organizing this event to learn more about how you could help.

On Election Day, our League is joining AAUW of Schenectady County to collect the returns at each polling place in Schenectady County. We report this to a consolidated media pool for local radio and TV stations to report the results of the election. If you would be able to go to your polling place (or another polling place) at the time the elections close (9 PM), collect the results and then call them to the phone number provided, please contact Maxine Borom, 370-2662.

Together we will be able to get the Voter Services work accomplished this Fall!

Kay Ackerman, Voter Services

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.org ELECTION INFORMATION YOU NEED

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
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.lwvny.org and click on Vote411.org

Voter Services Activities 2013

Voter Registration: Volunteers manned a booth at the outdoor Schenectady Greenmarket for six weeks in a row. Approximately 400 copies of the Voter Guide II were distributed, providing nonpartisan information on the six NYS proposals, and several registrations were completed or mailed in by the voters.

Candidate Forums: The Schenectady League in conjunction with AAUW sponsored four Candidate Forums in Rotterdam, Glenville, Niskayuna, and Schenectady. All of the invited candidates for these contested offices attended. Candidates for uncontested offices were not invited. The Forums were ably moderated by Roberta Steiner, Maxine Borum, Nancy Snyder, and Linda Rizzo, with numerous other LWV and American Association of University Women (AAUW) volunteers helping with setup, greeting, timekeeping, and question-gathering and screening. Approximately 180 voters attended the forums, and an additional 160 copies of the Voter Guide II were distributed at the Forums.

Poll Reporting: Thirty-five volunteers reported voting results for the Capital Region Election Service at Schenectady County polling places on Election night. Volunteers transcribed the voting results at each polling place and telephoned them in to the Election Service. This service allows the information to be transmitted promptly to all of the media in the area. We receive a stipend for this work which is designated for the taping and broadcasting of the Candidate Forums.

Vote 411: Thirty-seven candidates for office in the four towns participated in our online voter information guide. In addition, NYS LWV posted information about the six NYS proposals and Supreme Court races.

Many thanks to all of the volunteers who participated, and especially to the League members who stepped in to complete the Voter Services duties when I was unable to.

Pat MacKinnon, Chair

Ballot Initiatives (excerpted from LWVNYS)

PROPOSAL NUMBER ONE: AN AMENDMENT

Authorizing Casino Gaming The proposed amendment to section 9 of article 1 of the Constitution would allow the Legislature to authorize up to seven casinos in New York State for the legislated purposes of promoting job growth, increasing aid to schools, and permitting local governments to lower property taxes through revenues generated. Shall the amendment be approved?

WHAT WILL THIS AMENDMENT DO IF APPROVED?

Currently, the NYS Constitution prohibits all gambling except for (1) pari-mutuel wagering and horse racing; (2) State lotteries; (3) bingo conducted by certain charitable, non-profit and religious organizations; and (4) games of chance conducted by these same charitable, non-profit, and religious or-ganizations. This proposal would amend the constitution to authorize casino gambling within the state, allowing for no more than seven casinos.

WHAT IS THE BACKGROUND ON THIS PROPOSAL?

Proponents of the amendment argue that casino gambling has significant potential to be a major economic engine for New York State. They note that gaming already exists in the state, with five Native American owned casinos and nine racinos operating in the state, but that currently the state is not allowed to gain its benefits. They say that the amendment would enable New York to benefit from the tourism, revenue, and good jobs that they believe casinos will provide. Proponents also argue that limiting casino gambling to no more than seven facilities guarantees there will not be an excessive proliferation of casinos within New York State.
Opponents of the amendment argue that expanding casino gambling in New York State could potentially increase gambling addiction, exploit those suffering from gambling addiction and their families, and have harmful effects on the communities in which the casinos are located. They say that even without including non-economic costs, the hidden costs of adding a casino to a region are two to three times more than the touted benefits. Some opponents also argue that increased crime is associated with the addition of a casino to a community.

PROPOSAL NUMBER TWO: AN AMENDMENT

Additional Civil Service Credit for Veterans with Disabilities Certified Post-Appointment The proposed amendment to section 6 of article 5 of the Constitution would entitle a veteran who has received civil service credit for a civil service appointment or promotion and subsequently is certified as disabled to additional civil service credit at subsequent appointment or promotion. Shall the proposed amendment be approved?

WHAT WILL THIS AMENDMENT DO IF APPROVED?

The State Constitution currently grants veterans additional credit on civil service exams (5 points for an original appointment and 2 ½ points for a promotion). Disabled veterans are entitled to additional credit (10 points for an original appointment and 5 points for a promotion). Veterans are eligible for only one grant of additional credit, and so a veteran who is appointed or promoted before being certified as disabled currently is not eligible for the higher amount of credit he or she would have received if he or she had been certified as disabled before his or her appointment or promotion.
The proposed amendment would create an exception to the one-time-only additional credit rule. It would permit veterans who are certified disabled after having already received credit at one appointment or promotion, to received additional credit one more time after certification of their disability. After being certified disabled, a vet¬eran would be entitled to an additional grant of credit equal to the difference between 10 and the number of points received at the initial appointment or promotion. This would bring the total additional points of civil service credit such a veteran can receive to 10 for either an appointment or a promotion.

WHAT IS THE BACKGROUND ON THIS PROPOSAL?

Proponents of the amendment argue that it would benefit individuals who, through no fault of their own, were not classified as a veteran with disabili¬ties at the time of their first civil service appointment. They say that veterans applying for the credits will be less limited by time constraints, making them more likely to be hired to civil service positions. In addition, they note that veterans are more likely to be unemployed than the average citizen. They argue that this amendment would not only increase employment opportuni¬ties for veterans, but would also help put their training and experience to work for the State and local governments. The League of Women Voters of New York State could not identify any organizations or expressed opinions in opposition to this amendment.

PROPOSAL NUMBER THREE: AN AMENDMENT

Exclusion of Indebtedness Contracted for Sewage Facilities The proposed amendment to Article 8, section 5 of the Constitution would extend for ten years, until January 1, 2024, the authority of counties, cities, towns, and villages to exclude from their constitutional debt limits indebted¬ness contracted for the construction or reconstruction of sewage facilities. Shall the proposed amendment be approved?

WHAT WILL THIS AMENDMENT DO IF APPROVED?

The proposed amendment would extend until January 1, 2024 the authority of counties, cities, towns and villages to exclude from their constitutional debt limits indebtedness contracted from the construction and reconstruc¬tion of facilities for the conveyance, treatment and disposal of sewage.

WHAT IS THE BACKGROUND ON THIS PROPOSAL?

The exclusion of sewer debt from the constitutional debt limits of counties, cities, towns and villages was originally authorized in 1963 for a ten-year period. When first enacted, the general purpose of the exclusion was to encourage and enable municipalities to participate in the State's then-new sewer construction assistance plan without fear that, by incurring indebted¬ness for sewer purposes, they would diminish their power to incur debt for other capital improvements which they desired to undertake and finance. Reflecting the fact that water pollution concerns are continuing and require an ongoing effort, the exclusion has been subsequently extended for four successive ten-year periods. Without a further extension, the exclusion will apply only to debt contracted through the end of 2013. This amendment would permit the exclusion of such indebtedness until January 1, 2024.
Proponents of the amendment argue that the concerns addressed in 1963 and by subsequent extensions of the exclusion are still valid today. Technology continues to evolve to make more efficient systems available, additional develop¬ment necessitates the construction of new systems, and existing sewage treatment facilities age, necessitating reconstruction and refurbishment. Proponents say the amendment would allow municipalities to address these sewage needs without impairing municipalities' ability to finance other essential capital requirements. The League of Women Voters of New York State could not identify any organizations or expressed opinions in opposition to this amendment.

PROPOSAL NUMBER FOUR: AN AMENDMENT

Settling Disputed Title in the Forest Preserve The proposed amendment to section 1 of article 14 of the Constitution would authorize the Legislature to settle longstanding disputes between the State and private entities over certain parcels of land within the forest preserve in the town of Long Lake, Hamilton County. In exchange for giving up its claim to disputed parcels, the State would get land to be incorporated into the forest preserves that would benefit the forest preserve more than the disputed parcels currently do. Shall the proposed amendment be approved?

WHAT WILL THIS AMENDMENT DO IF APPROVED?

The "Forever Wild" clause of the NYS Constitution forbids the lease, sale, exchange or taking of any forest preserve land. The proposed amendment would allow the legislature to settle 100-year-old disputes between the State and private parties over ownership of certain parcels of land located in the forest preserve, in the town of Long Lake, Hamilton County, by giving up the State's claim to disputed parcels. In exchange, the State would get other land, currently privately owned, to be incorporated into the forest preserve. The land exchange would occur only if the Legislature, or its designee, determines that the land to be conveyed to the State would benefit the forest preserve more than do the disputed parcels.

WHAT IS THE BACKGROUND ON THIS PROPOSAL?

For the past century, the titles to parcels around Raquette Lake, located in the town of Long Lake, Hamilton County, have been in dispute, with both the state and private individuals claiming ownership. Some cases have been resolved in the courts with mixed outcomes. More than 200 parcels of land are still contested. The proposed settlement would allow the private parties to advance their title clearance by paying a fee into a fund held by the Town of Long Lake. When the fund is sufficient, it will be used to purchase replacement land that will be added to the forest preserve. Occupants could reduce their cash payment by entering into conservation easements with the town of Long Lake or by conveying a portion of their land to the state.
Proponents of the amendment argue that it would finally remove the uncertainty and cost of the longstanding land dispute while making significant additions to the forest preserve. They claim that a lack of documentation concerning ownership has made settling the claims in court difficult, expensive and unpredictable.
Opponents of the amendment argue that a legislative settlement would establish a poor precedent for other private land ownership disputes in the Adirondak Park, inviting an endless stream of private bills and constitutional amendments. They argue that similar land disputes have been resolved via the judicial system and that that is the appropri¬ate vehicle to settle such disputes because it provides transparency and an independent authority, which they say the proposed process does not. In addition, they claim that the fees to be collected from the occupants is much less than the assessed worth of the land and will not be sufficient to acquire comparable or better land to be added to the forest preserve, thus delaying the private parties' clear land title until the town government and state government can agree upon a land purchase.

PROPOSAL NUMBER FIVE: AN AMENDMENT

In Relation to a Land Exchange in the State Forest Preserve with NYCO Minerals, Inc.

The proposed amendment to section 1 of article 14 of the Constitution would authorize the Legislature to convey forest preserve land located in the town of Lewis, Essex County, to NYCO Minerals, a private com¬pany that plans on mining the land. In exchange, the NYCO Minerals would give the State at least the same amount of land of at least the same value, with a minimum assessed value of $1 million, to be added to the forest preserve. When NYCO Minerals finishes mining, it would restore the condition of the land and return it to the forest preserve. Shall the proposed amendment be approved?

WHAT WILL THIS AMENDMENT DO IF APPROVED?

The "Forever Wild" clause of the NYS Constitution forbids the lease, sale, exchange, or taking of any forest preserve land. The proposed amendment would allow the State to convey approximately 200 forest preserve acres to NYCO Minerals for mining. In exchange, NYCO Minerals would give the State at least the same amount of land of at least the same value, with a minimum assessed value of $1 million. This land would be added to the forest preserve. When NYCO Minerals finishes mining, the company would restore the condition of the land it received in the exchange and return it to the forest preserve.
The proposed amendment also would allow NYCO Minerals to test to determine the quantity and quality of the mineral to be mined on the land to be exchanged before the exchange occurs. It would require NYCO Minerals to give the State its test results so that the State can use them to determine the value of the land to be conveyed to NYCO Minerals. The proposed amendment also would require that if, after testing, NYCO Minerals does not want the forest preserve land, NYCO Minerals still must give the State at least the same amount of land of at least the same value of the land that was disturbed by the testing. This land would be incorporated into the forest preserve.

WHAT IS THE BACKGROUND ON THIS PROPOSAL?

NYCO Minerals is a producer and supplier of wollastonite (calcium metasilicate), which is a rare, white mineral having commercial appli¬cation as a reinforcement or additive in ceramics, paints, plastics, fric¬tion products and various building products. The Lewis mine produces 60,000 tons of wollastonite annually. NYCO Minerals has indicated that its mine is approaching the end of its pit life because the remainder of the wollastonite vein extends onto adjacent forest preserve land.
Proponents of the amendment argue that the land swap would (1) preserve jobs and ensure one of the largest employers in Essex County remains viable; (2) provide new access to mountain peaks and trout streams for outdoor recreation; and (3) result in the state preserve acquiring a greater quantity of land and higher-quality land than the land it is trading to NYCO Minerals.
Opponents of the amendment argue that the land swap is not vital to NYCO's survival and that it would diminish the strength of the "Forever Wild" clause. They say that (1) the land swap would set a dangerous and historic precedent because it would be the first forest preserve constitutional amendment to be undertaken for private commercial gain rather than for a clear public municipal purpose and public benefit and; (2) there are viable alternatives to the land swap, given that there are considerable permitted reserves of wollastonite available on NYCO's current land.

PROPOSAL NUMBER SIX: AN AMENDMENT

Increasing Age until which Certain State Judges Can Serve The proposed amendment to the Constitution, amending sections 2 and 25 of article 6, would increase the maximum age until which certain state judges may serve as follows: (a) a Justice of the Supreme Court would be eligible for five additional two-year terms after the present retirement age of 70, instead of the three such terms currently authorized; and (b) a Judge of the Court of Appeals who reaches the age of 70 in order to complete the term to which that Judge was appointed. Shall the proposed amendment be approved?

WHAT WILL THIS AMENDMENT DO IF APPROVED?

The purpose of this amendment is to increase to the age of 80 the maximum age until which Justices of the Supreme Court (including Appellate Division) and Judges of the Court of Appeals may serve in the following instances:
  • Justices of the Supreme Court are currently required to retire in the year they turn 70 years old, but are eligible to continue to perform the duties of a Justice of the Supreme Court for three additional two-year terms upon a certificate that their services are needed by the courts and they are competent to perform the full duties of the office. The proposed amendment would make them eligible for two additional such two-year terms, upon the same certification of need and competence.
  • Judges of the Court of Appeals are currently required to retire in the year they turn 70 years old. The proposed amendment would permit a Judge who reaches the age of 70 while in office to remain in service on the Court for up to 10 additional years in order to complete the term to which that Judge was appointed.
The proposed amendment would also prohibit the appointment of any person over the age of 70 to the Court of Appeals.

WHAT IS THE BACKGROUND ON THIS PROPOSAL?

Proponents of the amendment argue that it would enable the state judiciary to continue to benefit from the service of many dedicated, experienced and productive judges currently being lost to mandatory retirement. They argue that the current mandatory retirement age is archaic; noting a longer and healthier lifespan now than when the current retirement age was set.
Some opponents of the amendment argue that the proposal unfairly favors high-level judges on the State Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals, while others argue that forced retirement encourages diversity.

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.