|Posted by Pete Healey on December 28, 2012 at 6:30 AM|
The following is an enlarged "tweet" from my local daily paper, the Kingston Freeman, introducing new legislation from the Speaker of the NY State Assembly. Two provisions, one for limited early voting, and the other for limited financial disclosure, are each poor substitutes for the election system reform and campaign finance reform that are sorely needed in "the most dysfunctional state government in the country". But whadja 'spect from a man who should have retired years ago?
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver introduced legislation to allow New Yorkers to vote up to two weeks before Election Day, and to change state law forcing more disclosure of political spending. Silver, a Manhattanite who leads the Democrats that dominate the chamber, said Thursday that he would advance the measures during next year’s legislative session. He said each measure would “give New York’s voters a far stronger voice and help level the playing field in the electoral process.” The first bill, co-sponsored by Staten Island Assemblyman Mike Cusick, a Democrat who chairs the Election Law Committee, would require each county to establish at least five sites for early voting and open them each of the 14 days leading up to the November election. That includes the weekend. The hope is to boost voter turnout. Currently, New Yorkers can only vote in person from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Election Day, or by filling out an absentee ballot if they have a reasonable belief they’ll be unable to get the polls. Thirty-two other states, including Florida and Ohio, have some form of early voting. The second measure would force disclosure of political advertising and vote-getting efforts not coordinated with any given candidate, so-called “independent expenditure” campaigns. They are a growing force in New York elections: New York State United Teachers spent over $4 million to boost mostly Democratic candidates in 2012, and two downstate Super PACs spent over $500,000 supporting Duanesburg Democrat Cecilia Tkaczyk’s bid for state Senate. Just before Election Day, the State Board of Elections ruled that this spending only needs to be disclosed if it contains “magic words” that clearly direct voters to support or oppose a candidate. This standard did prompt disclosure by NYSUT and the pro-Tkaczyk PACs, but it is loser than definitions governing federal campaigns and elections in New York City. Silver’s bill would set the definition for state races more broadly, so that any campaign that is the “functional equivalent” of direct advocacy is required to disclose its spending and major donors. “Too often we are subjected to third party political advertisements that clearly advocate for or against a candidate,” said Cusick. “However, under the current system, the funding sources behind some of these advertisements are unknown. All candidates are subject to disclosure requirements, therefore it is time for us to close this loophole and make all involved in the political process accountable for the messages they send to the electorate.” Scott Reif, a spokesman for Republicans who control the Senate, said they would review the bill.