New York Primary’s Dirty Little Secrets Come Out of the Shadows
By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: April 18, 2016
According to OpenPrimaries.org, 43 percent of Americans identify as politically independent. In New York state, voters who haven’t chosen a party affiliation total more than 2 million – more than 20 percent of all registered voters in New York. Unfortunately for them, they will be shut out of tomorrow’s New York primary where the stakes for the country’s future have never been greater.
New York state is one of only 11 U.S. states that hold a “closed primary,” meaning that unless you are registered as either a Republican or a Democrat, you are precluded from voting in that party’s primary on April 19 in New York. Not only will Independents be barred from voting but those registered as Greens (about 26,000) or part of the Working Families Party (about 48,000) will also be locked out. This hits the Bernie Sanders campaign hard because he has won by large margins in states with open primaries where independents were allowed to vote. According to a national NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll conducted March 3-6, Sanders led Hillary Clinton 59 percent to 35 percent among independents. Sanders has also been endorsed by the Working Families Party which is actively engaged in his New York campaign.
What is particularly outrageous to the millions of Independents that have been barred from participating in closed state primaries this year is that all taxpayers pay for these primaries – and yet, only registered Republicans and Democrats get to cast a vote. That hits people as decidedly un-American and fuels growing anger at a system perceived as rigged for the benefit of the one percent.
But New York state has one other unique trick that is increasingly being viewed as a stealth form of voter suppression. In New York state, if you wanted to change your voter registration affiliation to Democrat in order to vote for Bernie Sanders, the cutoff was October 9 – a stunning six months before the actual primary. That’s the longest cutoff period of any of the 11 states with closed primaries. Most people are not even thinking about a primary election six months ahead of the actual date. The first Democratic debate which would allow people to become inspired about a candidate did not occur until after the cutoff for changing party affiliation in New York state.
The six-month cutoff in New York looks even more bizarre when contrasted against other closed primary states. In Florida, the cutoff to change your party affiliation is just 29 days before the primary. In New Jersey, it’s 55 days before the primary. It’s just a few weeks in other states.
Now allegations of outright voter suppression or voter fraud are coming forward in New York, sounding uncomfortably similar to what occurred in Arizona’s closed primary in March. In the Arizona matter, an online petition to the White House has drawn over 213,000 signatures asking for an investigation of potential voter fraud and suppression. The petition reads:
“Petition to have the Obama Administration investigate the voter fraud and voter suppression on 3/22/2016 in Arizona. Numerous voters who switched from Independent to Democrat could not vote and were turned away or given provisional ballots which in turn were never counted. We the people of the United States of America find this act alarming and would like a complete investigation to uncover the violations that occurred during the Arizona voting on 3/22/2016 and prosecute those responsible to the fullest extent of the law.”