Along With Anti-Bribery Measures, Gov. Cuomo Proposes Election Reform


Might as well use this recent scenario to hit two birds with one stone.

Last week, Governor Cuomo announced the Public Trust Act. The bill, which came in the wake of the scandals that rocked New York politics this month, would expand the powers given to state bribers to locate and detain those involved in bribery. It would also make it much easier for a prosecutor to bring a case against this type of corruption. It was Albany’s reaction to the Holleran/Smith and Stevenson controversies, both of which gave the public a rough glimpse into the dirty world of money and politics.

Moving beyond that, the governor has used the opportunity for something else. At a press conference yesterday, Cuomo proposed another idea he’s been talking about for a while now (with the backing of President Obama’s Organizing for America squad, too): reforming the means by which we elect our representatives in New York state.

Here’s the governor’s statement:

“Our state’s election system must promote a fair, democratic process that ensures that voices of New York’s voters are heard loud and clear and voters have real choices in an election. The reforms we are proposing today will help prevent corruption and strengthen our democracy by ensuring that candidates need not bankroll their way on to other parties’ ballots and giving voters the ability to change their party registration and vote in a primary in the same year. Further, today we are taking action where the Board of Elections has failed to act, and empowering a new enforcement unit with real teeth so the people of New York can have confidence in our electoral process.”

And here is that statement broken down into more digestible English:

  • On top of the four-commissioner State Board of Elections, an Independent Enforcement Unit would be created to make sure the board’s actions were carried out. It’d basically be like a cop force, but made up of attorneys and strictly for sniffing out electoral fraud. Call ’em the Ballot Busters.
  • In 1947, New York State passed the Wilson-Pakula Act, which required that any candidates who wanted to run on another’s party ballot had to get the permission of that party first. In turn, this has lead to promises of gifts and kickbacks for party sponsors and presumptive nominees (See: Malcolm Smith). This reform bill would get rid of that provision.
  • If you register with a new party in New York state, your vote isn’t effective until the next general election year. That doesn’t make any sense whatsoever so the new proposal would be to cut that time down to three months, allowing voters to participate in their new party’s primaries much sooner.

As Dean Skelos pointed out last week, corruption is inevitable in politics. That is the damn truth. But, once agin, here’s to trying something new.