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Voting

Students holding buttons at voter registration

By Judie Gorenstein

New York ranked 41 out of 50 states in voter turnout in 2016 and 49 out of 50 in the 2014 off-year election. Of all eligible New York voters, only 28.2 percent voted in 2014. When you look at the youngest age group, those between 18 and 25 years old, the turnout is even lower. And nationally in 2016, 70 percent of those over 70 years old voted. By contrast, only 43 percent of those under 25 did.

As Election Day approaches, students who leave for college will ask how and where they should register and vote. Although a Supreme Court decision in 1979 gave all students the right to vote where they attend college, election law is a state’s right. Each state thus has its own laws regarding voting, including registration deadlines, residency and identification requirements (ID) at the polls. 

In New York State, any citizen not in jail for a felony conviction can register to vote in the year they turn 18. To vote this year they must be registered by Oct. 12 and be 18 by Nov. 6, the date of the 2018 General Election. 

Even if a college student is living in another state or another New York county, they can ALWAYS vote absentee in their home district, which is a two-step process. They first need to complete an absentee ballot application and mail or deliver it to their county Board of Elections by Oct. 30. (The application form can be downloaded from NY BOE at http://www.elections.ny.gov/NYSBOE/download/voting/AbsenteeBallot-English.pdf and is available at libraries, post offices and the BOE.) 

The BOE will mail the actual ballot to the student, who must return it to the BOE postmarked by Nov 5. As long as the ballot was correctly completed and received by the BOE no later than 7 days after Election Day, the vote will be counted. Absentee ballots matter … they can change an election’s outcome.  

Frequently college students decide to register and vote where they are attending college. They feel it is important to get connected and have a voice on the issues in their new community and in the state where they may be living for four plus years. The Supreme Court may have given college students the right to vote where they go to college, but students are NOT ALWAYS ABLE to vote there. Some states have put up barriers to out-of-state students through their ID and residency requirements.  

Although New York in most cases does not require any voter ID at the polls, 34 states do so, with 17 states requiring photo ID. In Pennsylvania a college photo ID is sufficient while in other states it is not. In Texas a state-issued driver’s license or handgun license is accepted but not a college ID.  

Election laws can change. New Hampshire has just tightened its voter residency requirements, making it necessary for a student to register his or her car in New Hampshire and obtain a New Hampshire driver’s license. Students who want to vote at their college address should access that state’s most current requirements at www.campusvoteproject.org/ for election law and registration deadline information. “Your Right to Vote in New York State for College Students” is also available from LWVNYS at http://www.lwvny.org/advocacy/vote/RTVCollegeStudents.pdf 

In this time of student activism, those interested in a political career should strongly consider voting absentee; the residency requirement for a New York State candidate is living in the state or district for five years prior to being able to get on the ballot. But whether students decide to register and vote absentee in New York or in their college community, it is important that they learn about the issues and the candidates on their ballot, and VOTE. Our democracy works best when everyone participates.

Judie Gorenstein is vice president for voter services of the League of Women Voters of Suffolk County, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that encourages the informed and active participation of citizens in government and influences public policy through education and advocacy. For more information, visit http://www.lwv-suffolkcounty.org, email league@lwv-suffolkcounty.org or call 631-862-6860.

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With less than two weeks to go before New York State’s primaries, we’ve been ramping up our coverage of the 2018 elections at TBR News Media. One thing has become abundantly clear: There are a seemingly endless number of hurdles for who can run, their campaigns and how to vote.

In Shoreham, Rocky Point Fire Chief Mike Yacubich has fought to stay on the ballot after citizens in the state’s 2nd Assembly District challenged his petitions to be the Republican candidate to run for the seat. Their objections were based on the fact that he and his son share the same name — and that there was no distinguishing middle initial indicated on the forms — which they argued could have led to confusion for voters.

In Northport, Democratic hopeful Michael Marcantonio was found ineligible to run for the state’s 12th Assembly District after it was brought to the court’s attention he cast his vote in North Carolina in 2014. At the time, he was a law student at Duke University and didn’t realize judges may rule that ballot severed his five-year residency in New York, which is the time required to run for political office.

In Huntington, Republican candidates have petitioned to create a “Stop LIPA” ballot line for the Nov. 6 elections. Their opponents have filed objections. It has raised questions about when Stop LIPA became a legitimate third party and cast doubts on which elected officials are rallying against the utility’s attempt to get the taxes lowered on its Northport plant, an issue we see as local and party-less.

Throughout the summer, we’ve seen voter drives encouraging teenagers to register before heading off to college. The process of simply obtaining an absentee ballot requires completing a preliminary application that needs to be hand delivered to the Suffolk County Board of Elections Yaphank office or snail mailed at least seven days in advance, and casting an absentee ballot then requires a second trip to the post office. Also, being required to work during polling hours is not listed as a valid reason for obtaining an absentee ballot.

Our state laws regarding how to run for office and how to cast a vote need to be simplified. The process needs to be streamlined and modernized. Our failure to do so hurts both Democrats and Republicans, it knows no party lines. Rather, it collectively silences the voices of aspiring politicians looking to make a difference, employees working long hours to make ends meet and uninformed youth who find too many barriers between them and the polling booths.

First, information on how to run for office and eligibility needs to be made clear and more easily available to the public. A fundamental concept to our democracy is that anyone can run for office — but they have to know how and what to do.

In New York state, anyone with a valid driver’s license can register to vote online and change their party affiliation. Given this is possible, we fail to see any reason why a request for an absentee ballot should not also be fileable via email or an online form on Suffolk County Board of Elections’ website with an electronic confirmation given.

With the technology available today, it’s hard to believe we’re locked into pen-and-paper forms and snail mail to register political candidates for elections and to vote if temporarily out of state. It’s time we re-examine these methods. Participating in democracy should be getting easier, not more difficult.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and Legislator Sarah Anker stand together on Election Day. Photo by Rohma Abbas

By Desirée Keegan

Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker has won back her seat after a hard-fought battle that began on Election Day, when the polls closed with her leading her challenger by only one vote.

After absentee ballots were counted, the 6th District legislator expanded her lead to 17 votes, ending a race on Thursday that had originally been projected to drag through Thanksgiving.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and Legislator Sarah Anker stand together on Election Day. Photo by Rohma Abbas
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and Legislator Sarah Anker stand together on Election Day. Photo by Rohma Abbas

“It’s been a very intense race,” Anker (D-Mount Sinai) said. “I’ve had so many people come up to me, claiming that they were that one vote, and I am greatly appreciative and thankful that my supporters did go out there and vote. The bottom line is that every single vote counts.”

First-time Republican challenger Steve Tricarico, a deputy superintendent for the Town of Brookhaven Highway Department, said although the results were not what he preferred, he will continue to be a voice in his community.

“This is a great civics lesson,” he said. “We ran a good race, a clean race, an honest race, and I’m just glad that a lot of the positions that we took throughout the campaign have gotten out there. I grew up here, I live here, I’m raising my family here in the 6th District and I will continue to be an advocate for those issues that I feel are most important to the residents.”

Tricarico said he called Anker to congratulate her and wish her luck in her new two-year term, but also said he voiced his desire for the incumbent to think about some of the issues he focused on in his campaign, such as the local cost of living and public safety.

Anker will start her sixth year in office in January, in an area that frequently elects candidates from the opposite party — 6th District voters have consistently supported Conservative Councilwoman Jane Bonner for Brookhaven Town Board and Anker’s predecessor was Republican Dan Losquadro, who vacated his seat to become a state assemblyman and then later the town highway superintendent.

“People ask me why I put myself through the stress to run a very competitive campaign, and my answer would be because I love to help people, and I want to continue to do that job; people underestimate what I can do and what I can get done,” Anker said. “I think during the counting of the absentee votes, the GOP was quite surprised. They expected to win a number of votes over in the senior community, but I gained a lot of support there because I worked really hard in that area to help them with their problems and to help them with concerns and issues.”

Steve Tricarico is confident on Election Day. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Steve Tricarico is confident on Election Day. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Tricarico said he is back to focusing on his job at the highway department, and that with results showing that nearly half of the people in the 6th District are looking for change, he will not be closing the door on a future run.

Joking that she will be taking some much-needed time off, Anker said she is also ready to move forward with projects she’s been working on, such as those geared toward keeping young professionals on Long Island by erecting affordable housing and connecting college graduates with local jobs. In focusing on public safety, Anker has been working with Hope House Ministries in Port Jefferson to address drug addiction on the North Shore.

“Even though this race was very close, it still shows that people are happy with the job that I’m doing and they’re willing to jump the party line,” Anker said. “I make sure I’m inclusive of a lot of ideas. I’m transparent. I think my ability to stay focused on the goal of helping people and trying to resolve problems has elevated me above the fray.”

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Our government was designed to have some give-and-take. We have a mostly two-party system and two houses of Congress because the parties and the houses ideally check each other.

The House ensures proportional representation based upon population while the Senate, with each state getting two votes, makes sure the little guy can be heard even in a room of big guys. And the Republicans and the Democrats, in a well-balanced Congress, keep each other on their toes.

That’s why the spread between Republicans and Democrats in our North Shore legislative bodies makes us uncomfortable.

In Suffolk County, we have a large majority of Democrats in the Legislature, and the same imbalance exists on the Huntington Town Board. In Brookhaven and Smithtown towns, the Republicans have the overwhelming majority.

That disproportion will be worse come January, when Councilwoman Valerie Cartright will be the only Democrat on the seven-member Brookhaven Town Board. Her lone colleague on the left, Councilwoman Connie Kepert, was ousted by a Republican on Election Day.

One of the reasons our newspaper endorsed Cartright was our desire to preserve the Democratic minority on the board. This wasn’t because we particularly dislike any of the Republican board members or think they are irresponsible, but our government was designed to have shared control, to bring multiple viewpoints. Differing opinions foster compromise and prevent leaders from having absolute power to enact whatever laws they wish. A minority party is a watchdog.

Similarly, we endorsed Councilman Gene Cook for re-election in Huntington in part because he is the only non-Democratic member, and in that role he keeps the others in check. He will remain in such a position next year.

We hope our majority party leaders, from the Suffolk County Legislature to the town boards, keep in mind that even though they may not agree with minority colleagues, those people serve an important purpose — and we hope they will do their best to reach across the aisle, even though they don’t really have to.

It’s not just lip service
We hear it all the time: Every vote counts. And if you want proof, look no further than the North Shore.

With just one vote in the lead, Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) stood beside a triumphant group of Democrats on Election Day and timidly celebrated. Suffolk County Democratic Chairman Rich Schaffer joked she won by a “landslide.” Anker fought a tough battle against Republican Steve Tricarico, a Brookhaven Town deputy highway superintendent, and the fight isn’t over — it could be a while before absentee ballot counts are finalized and an official winner is declared. The vote was 5,859 to 5,858 — it could have been Anker’s own vote for herself that kept her head just barely above water.

Our paper has editorialized about voter turnout in the past, usually after Election Day. But it’s virtually unheard of to have two candidates separated by just one vote.

So once again, we implore you, go out and vote at election time. Every vote does count.

But county Legislator Sarah Anker has just one-vote lead; longtime Smithtown board member ousted; and all local boards maintain huge majorities

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and Legislator Sarah Anker are all smiles on Election Day. Photo by Rohma Abbas

The incumbents won big on Suffolk County’s North Shore this Election Day, with only a couple real upsets at the county and town levels.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) handily won a second term at the helm against his Republican challenger, lawyer Jim O’Connor, with 57 percent of the vote.

Bellone thanked many people for his victory and also thanked his opponent for a “good race.”

Steve Bellone gives a speech after being re-elected Suffolk County executive. Photo by Rohma Abbas
Steve Bellone gives a speech after being re-elected Suffolk County executive. Photo by Rohma Abbas

“Tonight the people of Suffolk County delivered a mandate: to advance the issues we talked about in this campaign,” he said, at the Democratic Election Night headquarters in Hauppauge. “To continue the reform government so that we can protect taxpayers, make government more efficient and effective. To reverse the decades of decline that we have seen in water quality so that we can protect this precious natural resource for ourselves and future generations.”

He vowed that he would work hard for the voters.

“To the people of Suffolk County: I want to thank you for the confidence you placed in me and this incredible team of legislators. I can guarantee you we will repay that confidence by working hard every single day to make progress on the issues that matter to you and to you families. We may celebrate a little bit tonight but that work begins tomorrow.”

Though Bellone was the clear winner early on, O’Connor said he was proud of his campaign.

“I think we talked about the issues that need to be talked about here on Long Island,” he said.

Despite the results, the challenger enjoyed himself: “I love this. … In America we run for office, we put our ideas forward and we let the people decide.”

Steve Tricarico, Legislator Sarah Anker's Republican challenger, feels confident about a win on Election Day. Photo by Giselle Barkley
Steve Tricarico, Legislator Sarah Anker’s Republican challenger, feels confident about a win on Election Day. Photo by Giselle Barkley

In the Suffolk County Legislature, incumbents from Brookhaven, Smithtown and Huntington towns won re-election, one of them by a razor-thin margin: Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai), who represents the 6th District, was leading her challenger by just one vote after the polls closed. It was not immediately clear if absentee ballots would tilt the scales in the favor of Republican candidate Steve Tricarico, a Brookhaven Town deputy highway superintendent. But Anker said Tuesday night that she felt “cautiously optimistic.”

Tricarico felt the same way.

“I’m feeling very confident,” he said before results were in. “This shows … that people are looking for a change. That’s what I’ve been offering.”

According to Tricarico, Republican absentee ballots outnumbered those of the Democrats, which he said boosts his confidence.

But Suffolk County Democratic Party Chairman Rich Schaffer was calling it in the other direction: “Sarah Anker — mark my words — in about two weeks will be a newly re-elected legislator.”

Anker said her election demonstrates that each vote counts. Asked what could have led to such a close race, the legislator said she’s got the political cards stacked against her as a Democrat representing a largely Republican district.

Legislator Kara Hahn and Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone embrace after both are re-elected. Photo by Rohma Abbas
Legislator Kara Hahn and Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone embrace after both are re-elected. Photo by Rohma Abbas

“Most political strategists have never understood how I won it the past three times, much less this fourth time,” she said. “But I feel it’s because the people appreciate what I do. They’re looking for leadership.”

From there, it was smooth sailing. Kara Hahn (D-Setauket), the 5th District legislator, beat Republican challenger Donna Cumella, of Port Jefferson Station, with 63 percent of the vote. In the 13th, Legislator Rob Trotta (R-Fort Salonga) beat Kings Park Democrat Rich Macellaro with more than 70 percent of the total.

In Huntington, Legislator Steve Stern (D-Dix Hills) won his final term in the 16th District against Republican attorney Tom McNally with 60 percent of the vote.

“We understand what’s on the minds of our constituents, we listen to our constituents, and we deliver for our constituents,” Stern said.

Also, Legislator William “Doc” Spencer (D-Centerport) took the 18th District against his challenger from the right, Grant Lally, after garnering 56 percent of the votes.

“It’s exhilarating,” a joyous Spencer said. “It’s really is. After two years of hard work and six-month campaign, to really have the people recognize I’m giving my heart and soul to try to support us means a lot to me.”

Doc Spencer celebrates a win on Election Day. Photo by Rohma Abbas
Doc Spencer celebrates a win on Election Day. Photo by Rohma Abbas

Despite her loss, Cumella stayed positive and said she wouldn’t let this year’s election deter her from running for the same position in the future. She said she is now “a little bit more educated with the political arena.”

About her victory over that Republican, Hahn said, “I’m really gratified by the confidence the community has shown in me and I very much appreciate it and I plan to work just as hard as I’ve worked in the last four years.”

Tom Muratore (R-Ronkonkoma), the 4th District legislator, and the 12th District’s Leslie Kennedy (R-Nesconset) were effectively unopposed for re-election and secured their next terms.

“I’m ecstatic,” Muratore said. “Maybe we can bring some of our ideas to the table … We’re about doing the right things to people.”

Supervisor Ed Romaine celebrates his re-election as the head of Brookhaven Town. Photo by Giselle Barkley
Supervisor Ed Romaine celebrates his re-election as the head of Brookhaven Town. Photo by Giselle Barkley

Kennedy said she did not spend time campaigning and was pleased with the outcome.

“I want to go home and go to bed so I can wake up tomorrow ready to vote on the Operating Budget Committee board,” she said.

Brookhaven Town saw its supervisor, Ed Romaine (R), and its highway superintendent, Dan Losquadro (R), re-elected easily — Romaine won 72 percent of the votes against Democratic challenger Douglas Dittko and Losquadro beat out his own Democratic opponent, Jason Kontzamanys, with 69 percent of the voters’ support.

Romaine called his landslide victory “encouraging” and Losquadro said, “I really feel that this is a validation of the work that we’ve been doing in the town.”

“It’s such a big department, and really, for the fundamental services that people expect from their tax dollars are that their roads are safe, cleared of snow and debris, and I’m very excited to be given the opportunity to continue to do that work.”

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and Brookhaven Councilwoman Valerie Cartright go in for a kiss after both win re-election. Photo by Rohma Abbas
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and Brookhaven Councilwoman Valerie Cartright go in for a kiss after both win re-election. Photo by Rohma Abbas

The three incumbents running for re-election to the Brookhaven Town Board on the North Shore were returned to their seats. Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) beat Republican challenger Ed Garboski, the president of the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association. She had 56 percent of the vote to his 44 percent.

“I worked really hard,” she said Tuesday night. “The community came together.”

She has no small task ahead of her. If all of the election results stand, she will be the only Democrat on the Town Board next year, after her effectively unopposed North Shore colleagues Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) and Councilman Kevin LaValle (R-Selden) won re-election, as did South Shore Republican Councilmen Dan Panico and Neil Foley. But Cartright’s lone Democratic colleague, Councilwoman Connie Kepert, was ousted by Republican challenger Michael Loguercio Jr.

“I’m kind of speechless, which isn’t normally the case for me,” Bonner said about winning by a large margin. “I’m super, super excited to get started, move forward. I can’t wait to get to work tomorrow.”

LaValle called his own win an “honor.”

Over in Huntington, town board incumbents Gene Cook (I) and Susan Berland (D) were returned to the board after a four-way race with 27 percent and 24 percent of the vote, respectively. Democratic challenger Keith Barrett and Republican challenger Jennifer Thompson fell short, each garnering about 22 percent of the vote.

“I can’t wait until tomorrow,” Cook said Tuesday night. “I felt good throughout today because I’m always honest and I think I’ve shown that in the last four years.”

Councilmen Ed Wehrheim and Bob Creighton discuss the Smithtown board election results. Photo by Phil Corso
Councilmen Ed Wehrheim and Bob Creighton discuss the Smithtown board election results. Photo by Phil Corso

Berland said she was “proud and humbled” to be re-elected.

“I just want to keep doing good things for the people of the town and making the town the best place it can possibly be,” she said.

Smithtown Town Board experienced a bit of an upset. Councilman Ed Wehrheim (R) was re-elected to one of two board seats, after receiving 31 percent of the vote, but his colleague Bob Creighton (R) was unable to battle back after losing a Republican primary to newcomer Lisa Inzerillo.

Inzerillo was elected Tuesday night with 28 percent of the vote, as compared to Creighton’s 20 percent. The latter total was even lower than that of the lone Democratic candidate for Town Board, who lost after garnering just 22 percent of the vote.

Inzerillo held a private gathering at her home Tuesday night and did not respond to requests seeking comment, but took to her Facebook page to thank her team.

Larry Vetter says the people have spoken in choosing not to elect him. Photo by Kevin Redding
Larry Vetter says the people have spoken in choosing not to elect him. Photo by Kevin Redding

“I am grateful beyond words for all of the support I received from residents,” she said. “It is very humbling to know my grassroots campaign was successful. I look forward to working with the new town board and working for the residents that elected me.”

Wehrheim, who frequently works with Creighton on town projects, called Inzerillo’s win “a loss for Smithtown” and called his own victory “bittersweet” as he prepared to work with the newcomer. Creighton apologized to his room of supporters Tuesday night, adding that he was “sorry things didn’t work out.”

About his defeat, Vetter said, “The message is clear: The town didn’t want me. … Apparently the town is satisfied with what they have.”

Earlier in the night he had said, “If I lose and it’s tight, I might try again. If I get clobbered, I’m not gonna do it again.”

Rohma Abbas, Giselle Barkley, Phil Corso, Victoria Espinoza, Desirée Keegan, Kevin Redding and Eric Santiago contributed reporting.

Election turnout reaches highest in years

Port Jefferson Treasurer Don Pearce and Village Clerk Bob Juliano tally the 2015 election results. Photo by Elana Glowatz

The “unity” slate cleaned up in the Port Jefferson Village election Tuesday night, with Mayor Margot Garant and Trustee Larry LaPointe securing additional terms on the board of trustees and newcomer Stan Loucks winning his first.

Garant, who will start her fourth term this summer, beat out challenger Dave Forgione, a 15-year resident and the owner of a billing and accounting business in upper Port, with 1,162 votes to his 753.

“I’m just really elated that the people are entrusting and allowing me to continue to do the work that we do for the village,” Garant said about her win in a phone interview Wednesday. “Super psyched.”

When reached by phone Wednesday, Forgione said he was “humbled” by the support he received from the community.

“I’d like to congratulate Margot on her victory and wish her all the success in her upcoming term,” he said.

Forgione would not say whether he would run for village board again in the future, after experiencing a busy campaign season this time around.

“At this point I’m just trying to get my life back in order,” he said with a laugh.

There were two trustee seats up for election — LaPointe’s and that of Trustee Adrienne Kessel, who did not run for another term. The three candidates ran at-large for those spots.

Loucks, a longtime volunteer at the Port Jefferson Country Club and a retired athletics teacher and administrator in Plainview-Old Bethpage schools, garnered the most support of any candidate vying any seat, with 1,205 votes. LaPointe came in second out of the trustee candidates, with 1,160 votes, and secured a third term on the board. In third place was challenger Matthew Franco, a 10-year village resident and a pediatric occupational therapist for Nassau BOCES, who fell short with 822 votes.

LaPointe emphasized in a phone interview Wednesday morning “just how gratified and grateful I am to my friends and neighbors for coming out to support the unity team.”

Loucks is looking forward to getting to work.

“I’m just flabbergasted at the outpouring of support,” Loucks said Wednesday, speaking in a phone interview of his gratitude to his supporters. “I was blown away by the results last night.”

When reached by phone Wednesday, Franco congratulated LaPointe and Loucks and said he hopes they take it to heart that 40 percent of voters cast ballots for him.

“Don’t dismiss the minority,” he said. “There’s 40 percent of this population of the village that wants change.”

Franco said he would run again for the village board in the future.

“I am preparing for next year,” he said.

Village Justice Peter Graham ran unopposed for re-election and was also returned to his role, receiving 1,031 votes.

Resident turnout for the election was high, especially compared to recent years.

As the Village Center buzzed with activity 10 minutes before the polls closed, Village Clerk Bob Juliano said the building had been busy all day. He noted that in previous years, the crowd usually died down in the last hour of voting, but that did not happen this year.

Counting absentee ballots, almost 2,000 Port Jefferson residents voted in the election — about double the number who turned out to the polls last year. And the voter turnout was dismal in the two years prior to that: In 2013 there were 84 voters total, and in 2012 there were close to 150 who cast ballots.

Port Jefferson Village code enforcement officer Lt. John Borrero said, as the 69 absentee votes were being tallied at the end of the night, “I’ve never seen an election so crowded.”

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