Bernie supporters push for registration overhaul to vote in state primary
They’re looking to put the Bern on Gov. Cuomo.
New York Democratic Party activists who backed Bernie Sanders for president in 2016 — and now support Cynthia Nixon for governor over Gov. Cuomo — have drafted a resolution to force the state Democratic Committee to pass a rule allowing independent or “nonaligned” registered voters to vote in the 2018 Democratic primary for governor, on Sept. 13.
The resolution advanced by the Progressive Action Network is being circulated among Democratic Committee members and is expected to be debated at next month’s party convention.
New York’s restrictive voting laws became a national embarrassment and laughingstock in 2016 as younger voters realized they couldn’t vote for Sanders in the primary against Hillary Clinton because they missed the deadline to re-enroll as Democrats, which at six months’ prior to the April 19 vote was the most restrictive deadline in the country.
Sanders blasted New York’s rules for disenfranchising up to 3 million citizens who were registered as independents, saying at the time, “That makes no sense at all.”
Even two of President Trump’s kids — Eric and Ivanka — couldn’t vote for their dad in the GOP primary that same day, because they were not aware of the early deadline to switch party affiliation.
Now supporters of the rules change have ammo to support their cause, as a panel set up by the Democratic National Committee — the Unity Reform Commission, which included Sanders and Clinton campaign representatives — issued a report calling for all state parties to pass laws, change party rules or file lawsuits if necessary, to make it easier for voters to switch their registration to vote in Democratic primaries.
Party committees that fail to make good-faith efforts to do so could face penalties, including the loss of delegates to the presidential nominating convention.
GOP opposition in the state Senate has blocked laws to improve ballot access in New York, critics argue.
But the report cites a section of New York State Election Law “that allows parties to authorize by rule extending eligibility to vote in its primaries and to non-aligned voters, that such extension would not require new legislation or the permission of the Republican Party.”
The proposal would allow “non-aligned” voters registered on or before Aug. 19 to vote in the Sept. 13 Democratic primary — or up to 25 days before the primary, the same deadline for newly registered voters.
“The deadline of 11 months before a state primary for a non-aligned voter to change enrollment to be eligible to vote in that primary is a national embarrassment with no other state even close to such an absurd barrier to voting,” said a letter accompanying the resolution.
State Democratic Party Executive Director Geoff Berman said the question of when to allow voters to switch registration to vote in a party primary should be dealt with by the Legislature, not by a political party.
“It should happen on the state-law level so it can be applied uniformly to all political parties and voters in New York,” he said.
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