Two Cheers for the Board of Elections
This article wraps up my journey through this year’s NYC primary results (see also here, here, and here ), which were recently posted on the Board Elections’ website. There will be a summary of my the post-primary observations not made in previous articles, as well as some other things I’ve gleaned from other info recently posted by the Board. (I’ll admit this series would probably have been far more extensive if John Mollenkopf’s maps of the 11th CD race hadn’t convinced me of the futility of trying to give informed analysis with limited resources). But first:
More Than A Few Words About the NYC Board of Elections: For once I’d like to say something nice about the NYC Board of Elections, which, those who follow my writing know, is tantamount to Hillary throwing a compliment in the direction of Monica Lewinsky. Earlier this year, when the Justice Department filed suit against New York State for failing to implement the Help America Vote Act, I said that delay might be justifiable if there was a deliberative process going on; but there probably nothing happening that so qualified. I argued that what was going on was the usual NYS dysfunction at the junction and I cast doubt upon the argument that New York's failure to come anywhere near any deadlines, endangering our access to piles of federal money, was entirely the result of the altruistic efforts of the State and City Boards of Election (two institutions entirely controlled by party hacks who, at their most competent, exercise about as much independent judgment as the average Muppet, and who frankly, are rarely capable of exercising any level of competence at all) to do the job right. Using that logic, it could be argued that our constantly late budgets are the result of a sincere efforts by legislative leaders to get the most bang for the buck. I don't buy that one either. Actually, I was a little bit harsh on them; as the Times made clear, PART of the problem was caused by the inaction of the legislature; however, the Boards still deserved a good deal, and POSSIBLY, most, of the blame.
Even when defending the Board, I’ve been extremely harsh. When Maurice Gumbs essentially accused the Board of trying to fix elections, I wrote “a criminal conspiracy seems to me an unlikely scenario. I'd be more scared if I believed that anyone competent worked at the Board (of course, it's also kinda scary that there ain't). The Board is where the County Organizations bury their neediest cases …; the best and the brightest go elsewhere. In general, the Board of Elections couldn't organize an orgy at a convention of nymphomaniacs.”
So here comes the compliment; when I recently went to the Board’s website to retrieve elections results from the year’s primary, I found it was a veritable cornucopia of delights for the election junkie.
For instance, unlike in past years, the primary results are sorted by race and county in easy to read Assembly District by Assembly District summaries. While I have a wish list for what I’d like to see spiffed up, which I’ll tag at the end, this is really quite useful.
I should note that past year results (going back to 1999) also offer many a buried treasure for trivial freaks, and sometimes, even have advantages over the current format (although, given the inconsistencies of format, this seems as much by accident as anything else). I’ll be presenting a wish list for these as well, some more important than others, as there are some glaring errors and omissions. I’ll also be suggesting some other archival materials which might be helpful.
Another source of good fun is this year’s list of candidates, the best nuggets from which I will excerpt later. But, the real prizes are the district maps, which are far better than those on the website of the State’s reapportionment commission (LATFOR). Although the State site contains legislative and congressional district maps throughout the state, the City Board’s maps are detailed Election District by Election District (ED) and one can zoom in on actual EDs to determine what areas they cover. The maps are also color-coded so that one can immediately see the Assembly Districts which overlap the larger districts (only the municipal court districts aren’t colored). This all makes the study of election results easier and far more accessible.
Wrapping Up the Post-Primary Wrap-Up:
Shiva for Mark Green: Out of 65 Assembly Districts in the City, Green ran first in 8 of them. Five of these were bastions of rich white liberals: 52 (Brownstone Brooklyn), 65 (Upper East Side), 66 (Greenwich Village), 67 (Upper West Side) and 73 (Upper East Side). Two were strongholds of politically conservative Orthodox Jews: 45 (Greater Sheepshead Bay), 48 (Borough Park). Once was a combination of both of the above: 44 (Flatbush/Park Slope). All had significant Jewish populations; but by no means did Green show universal strength among either Jews, liberals or liberal Jews. A sad end, although when compared to Jeanine Pirro, Green appears to have escaped from the public scene with some modicum of dignity.
The Boylands: Those who look at Velmanette Montgomery’s blowout of Tracy Boyland and write off the Boyland family’s political strength should take note that within the family’s home turf of the 55th AD, Boyland took 60% of the vote.
Eric Adams: Those looking for candidates with crossover potential might want to eyeball the universal shellacking Eric Adams gave his opponents in all areas of the 20th SD, whether black, white or Latino. Whether this owes to his special appeal, or the lameness of his opponents (which, in fairness to Adams, might itself owe to his special appeal) remains to be seen; Carl Andrews’ prior crossover strength in the same district had little apparent benefit to his congressional race. Still, Adams is one to watch.
The lameness of Dov Hikind: Hikind’s much ballyhooed support of Carl Andrews got a Andrews a whopping 12% in Hikind’s 48th AD (94 votes to Yassky’s 564). It got Kevin Parker 5% in his race against Hikind’s archenemy, Noach Dear. But you say, Hikind’s strength goes beyond his home turf? Well, in a similarly Orthodox area of the neighboring 45th AD, Andrews got 10% (I guess Hikind’s worth 2 more points in his home district), getting 52 votes to Yassky’s 678. The only Orthodox area where Andrews showed any real strength was among Crown Heights Hasidim, where he was supported by one Lubavitcher faction, which would have done so with or without Hikind, given Andrews’ efforts at gaining funding for the community. Earlier this year, I wrote: “the actual value of Hikind’s endorsement is limited. 500 votes seems about right. But, can anyone name any other individual who delivers more?” In hindsight, I would answer that by saying “the guy from Fresh Direct”. Hikind’s support was statistically insignificant.
But don’t quite discount the Orthodox vote yet: Ed Towns' 84% to 9% triumph over Charles Barron in the 42nd AD (Midwood) and 63% to 21% in the 50th AD (Williamsburg) were largely the result of concerted efforts in the Orthodox Jewish community. In the case of Towns, those victories, as well as Orthodox votes picked up elsewhere, may have been the difference between his 10 point victory and a much narrower one, given the amount of white support Towns had lost to Barron and Roger Green in Brownstone Brooklyn. Hikind may try to take some credit for the 42nd AD totals, but he surely had nothing to do with what happened in Billyburg. On the other hand, the numbers in Williamsburg (a little more than 1700 votes in the 50th AD for Marty Connor, who also got some non-Hasidic votes there), shows this community’s strength to be a shell of its former self, possibly due to factional infighting.
Whither the Speaker: Shelly’s had better days at home. In the 2nd Municipal Court District, which includes most, but not all, of Silver’s home turf, Shelly’s candidate, David Cohen, armed with all the support such sponsorship brings, as well as a New York Times endorsement (which may have been part of “all the support such sponsorship brings”) managed 44% to victor Margaret Chan’s 40%. While the Court District did not include some important bastions of Silver support, it did include the most important one (Grand Street), and, in fact, it also didn’t include some areas of Silver’s district where he is generally thought to be weaker (like Battery Park City). Without a better margin, courtesy of the Speaker, than 200 votes, the fact that Cohen lost so narrowly (145 votes) is almost remarkable. On the other hand, Silver-backed Marty Connor, whose district includes Silver’s entire AD, managed 62% in Silver’s turf, indicating some independent strength in areas which overlapped Cohen, or, alternatively, that the Speaker’s support means far more when one is not running against a Chinese candidate in Chinatown (although Chan’s numbers indicate she got a lot of non-Asian support in Silver’s AD as well).
Another Race No One Cares About: The monumental nature of John Spencer’s Victory over KT McFarland is perhaps exemplified best by the fact that that she lost all of Manhattan, except the Silk Stocking 73rd AD, where she took 52%. Is this the death of moderate Republicanism, or just an indication that even Manhattan Republicans prefer a candidate who is rabidly conservative to one who is just plain rabid?
Some Observations Gleaned From the List of Candidates in the Coming General Election:
Think We’ll Dodge that Bullet?: Jimmy McMillan, the Candidate of the “Rent Is Too High” Party, is the only persona running for Governor who does not have a running mate for LG.
Consider the Alternatives: For State Comptroller, the Green Party is running hearty perennial Julia Willebrand (like Hevesi, taking a consolation prize after losing for Mayor), the Libertarians’ John J. Cain and the Socialist Workers’ Willie Cotton. Those interested in a Gatemouth endorsement are invited to submit an essay, explaining why you are worthy of support from a Clinton Democrat, to Gatemouthnyc@hotmail.com.
Competition: Across the country, voters are preparing to take part in a national referendum on such monumental issues as “The War in Iraq”, “The Future of Social Security” and “The Advisability of Condoning Virtual Sodomy with Minors for Whom You Are En Loco Parentis”. And yet, in nearly a quarter of New York City’s 13 Congressional Districts, voters will be unable to do anything but cast vote for the Democrat or abstain (although in two of the three offending districts, voters will be able to choose the line on which they support the Democratic incumbent). No, competition would not change the results, but it used to be that parties rewarded those who stood tall and accepted the party’s nod in districts where victory was unlikely. Now, for the most part, such candidates are treated as pariahs, and often actively discouraged. Imagine if Democrats in Mark Foley’s district had felt the same way as do Republicans in Gary Ackerman’s (Gatemouth’s idea, btw, of a really splendid member of Congress). And yes, such victories are few and far between, but even minority constituencies surely have some right to express their beliefs at the ballot box.
And Congress is not the worst of it. There are only 44 Republican candidates for State Assembly in the City’s 65 ADs, a deficiency of 32%, a number made even worse when one considers that three of these are incumbent Democrats. Another, running for an open seat, is a Democrat who lost his own party’s primary. All told, including Democratic losers and minor party candidates, voters will have an actual general election choice in 46 of the City’s 65 Assembly seats (70%). I should note that, in the two seats currently held by Republicans, Democrats have managed to run candidates in 50% of them (an open seat). And, in their half-hearted efforts to take advantage of the Spitzer landslide, State Senate Democrats failed to run a candidate against Marty Golden whose district (at least on paper) is competitive.
The End of Backfill: Reams of paper have been wasted by writers talking about the wonders of “fusion”, which allows minor ballot status parties to convey their lines upon major party candidates, allowing them to wield disproportionate power. Publications, primarily on the left, regularly hail our minor parties for what one Room 8 reader called their “populism” and “incorruptibility”. Small parties "populist"? Democratic candidates, at least in open seats, are usually chosen in primaries. The small parties hand out Wilson-Pakulas (permission slips for non-party members to run) in a back room. Large parties more corrupt? It's the small parties which are the glorified extortion operations. Once a person becomes chair of a New York State ballot status minor party, they never again suffer a bad meal.
Will this ever come to an end? The near-certain demise of the post-primary judicial nominating convention eliminates a necessary safety valve in the cross-endorsement process; if conventions go away, small parties can no longer get rid of placeholder candidates, or losers in major party primaries, by nominating them for Supreme Court judgeships. Without that safety valve, the system becomes a lot less appealing to the major parties.
The candidates list indicates how this process actually work. Willis Stephens, defeated for re-nomination for a Hudson Valley Assembly seat, largely because of his inability to properly direct his email (a comment of his to an aide, dissing posters on a local political site, was accidentally sent by him to that very site) has been nominated by the Republicans and Conservatives for a Supreme Court seat in Queens, allowing him to give up the Conservative line for assembly. One can be assured by his record that he is definitely no Cardozo, although he might be G. Harold Carswell. Robert Helbock, defeated in his effort to become Republican nominee for an open State Senate seat in Staten Island, has only the Conservative line for his Queens race, apparently because he wanted to ensure that no accident occurred which might actually elect him. In Helbock’s case, the local Conservatives, embittered by the nasty Republican primary, were not down with the program, and refused to give Helbock’s slot to Republican Andrew Lanza, nominating their own guy and opening the possibility that Democrat Matt Titone might have a shot (although less so than if Helbock continued to run).
The process is time honored, and many feel that Democratic Primary runner-up Catherine Abate’s failure to give up the Independence line, to take such a nomination in Westchester, nearly cost Eliot Spitzer the 1998 election for AG. Without the ability to do post-primary back-fill, it is not impossible that some party leaders will start pushing for legislation allowing a political party to nominate candidates only from their own membership, thereby ending New York's tradition of fusion.
Some Suggestions for the Board of Elections:
This year’s primary results include only races for public office, but not party positions. By contrast, the 2005 results on line include all party offices, right down to County Committee, allowing all the world to gloat about the stunning defeat handed to Allen Roskoff by his own neighbors. Real political junkies (who else would be visiting the elections results?) want all the numbers; post them!
While the AD by AD summaries for each race are preferable to just scanning the ED by ED results (which was done in some prior years), it would be even better to have both, so that political junkies could use the really, really neat ED maps to better observe how each neighborhood voted.
2005 Primary: THE RESULTS FOR THE BROOKLYN RACES FOR SURROGATE AND THE 6TH MUNICIPAL COURT DISTRICT WERE NEVER POSTED. The recounts weren’t finished before the results went up, but they should go up already. The Surrogate’s numbers are especially interesting for junkies everywhere.
2002 Primary: The results are just scanned in without any rhyme or reason; no one not on a mission from God can find anything.
2001 General: See above.
2000: Virtually impossible to navigate the Presidential numbers because no AD by AD summaries are posted for each county, only the ED by ED for each Assembly District.
2000 Primary: THERE ARE NO RESULTS FOR THE SEPTEMBER PRIMARY. What results there are actually come from the presidential primary held in the spring, but are mislabeled.
1999 General: There are no detailed results, only totals for each race.
Other suggestions: Old maps and other materials should not merely be updated; they should be archived, so those checking old results can match them properly.
This is a great start, and it is improving; keep up the good work.For further discussion of some of the topics within please see:
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