Experts Discuss Upcoming Elections

By Zachary Stieber
Epoch Times Staff
Created: August 29, 2012 Last Updated: September 4, 2012
Related articles: United States » New York City
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Signs direct people where to register to vote in the presidential election October 6, 2004 in New York City. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Signs direct people where to register to vote in the presidential election October 6, 2004 in New York City. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

NEW YORK—With the next set of primaries coming up in several weeks and the November elections not too long after, The Epoch Times reached out to political experts for analysis on what to look for.

Judicial races important

A 14-year appointment to the New York Surrogate Court is up for grabs between two female Democrats, Barbara Jaffe and Rita Mella. They are both currently Civil Court judges.

The two woman, along with others vying for judicial positions, are in races that are difficult to predict, “because virtually no one knows who these people are,” according to David S. Birdsell, dean of Baruch University’s School of Public Affairs.

“These are the ones most open to mischief and whimsy given the very, very low name recognition,” he said. The surrogate courts, specifically, wield a lot of power, and given the low recognition, some argue that it’s a bad idea for appointment by ballot, said Birdsell. “In any case, this is how the people are chosen, and it behooves us to know more about them,” he said. “These are powerful positions. You want to make sure qualified people are in them.”

Jaffe graduated from Brooklyn Law School, received her bachelor of arts degree from Syracuse University, and handles cases brought by and against the city in the civil court, according to the Lower Manhattan Democrats. Mella presides over the Manhattan Misdemeanor Treatment Court, an alternative-to-incarceration program, after graduating from CUNY law school, where she is an adjunct professor.

The Manhattan Surrogate Court race also appears important to Jerry Kremer, a former state assemblyman and current chairman of Empire Government Strategies, a government relations firm.

Kremer said the most interesting thing about the September primaries is the race for the court, which gives out millions of dollars in patronage and handles millions of dollars worth of wills and estates each year.

“That’s a very big race,” he said. “A lot of these smaller legislative races, while it might involve a challenge to somebody who’s been in office for a long period of time, on the other hand, it really doesn’t attract that much attention. So I would say I don’t really think it’s that significant.”

Other races include state Senate and Assembly seats, state committee positions, and district leader positions.

November Power Shift

Looking forward to November’s general election, 15 percent of the state Assembly has announced its retirement this year, “which is a very high figure,” according to Kremer. “So there’s a lot of new people, and a certain number of them are challenging what you would call the ‘organization candidates,’ but it’s not going to change the balance of power in Albany.”

Yet the congressional races “could have a major impact on what happens in the House of Representatives,” said Kremer, with New York having six seats up for grabs in both parties. “So November is much more significant than anything that’s going on in the primaries,” he said.

Redistricting could shake things up, said Birdsell, with some districts having merged and some incumbents not having a district to run in anymore.

Voting Turnout

Birdsell said the day of the primary vote—Thursday, Sept. 13—is “deeply unusual.”

“It’s just a bad idea in general to mess around with election days,” Birdsell added, explaining that he can’t remember another year when the election was held on a Thursday instead of a Tuesday. “People get used to doing certain things, they look for them at particular times, and it’s easy to forget to vote if it’s a day you’ve never, ever associated with voting.”

There are 4,366,746 registered voters in New York City as of April 1, 2012, according to the Board of Elections, although almost half a million are classified as inactive. Another roughly 6 million active voters are outside the city. The state has had declining voter turnout, according to officials.

In 2010, according to census data, 14.9 million New Yorkers were of voting age; 56 percent of these registered to vote in the November general election, yet only 38 percent voted.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg launched a campaign in March to try to get more women to vote, according to the press release, only about 20 percent of eligible women voters in New York City vote in November.

To try raising voter participation, the city’s Board of Elections said Aug. 9 it will roll out applications for mobile phones that give voters sample ballots and poll site maps, and include social media icons and a ticker for upcoming elections when it launches its updated website.

Follow Zachary on Twitter: @ZackStieber

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