Before the first vote was cast Queens borough president Melinda Katz was virtually crowned the next district attorney for Queens County.
Then there was an election, and surprise! Public defender Tiffany Cabán won by 1,000 votes. That is until absentee ballots were counted up, and once again, Katz seems to have earned the electoral prize.
While a court — and a manual recount — will ultimately decide this political tennis match, concerns have been raised about how elections are conducted much closer to home.
The biggest problem? New York remains a closed primary state. That means in order to vote in a Democratic primary, for example, you must be a Democrat. New York has eight recognized political parties, running the gamut from liberalism to conservatism.
A registered member of the Green Party? You can’t vote Democratic in a primary. A registered Libertarian? Don’t even think about casting a ballot in a GOP primary.
New York is just one of 11 states that require closed primaries, according to published reports. And at least in the Bronx (and many parts of New York City), if you win the Democratic nomination, you can start measuring the curtains in your soon-to-be new office.
Want to have a say earlier but not a member of the right party? You can change your affiliation, but it must be done six months in advance.
The legislature has passed a bill that would streamline the process to change party affiliation much earlier, but it has yet to even make it to Andrew Cuomo’s desk.
Why does that make a difference? The Queens race had 2,800 provisional ballots cast, where more than 2,300 of them were tossed out, according to The New York Times. These likely were from people who were not properly registered to vote, or more likely, were simply not registered Democrats, hoping to get a voice between Cabán and Katz.
In a race that, as of last weekend, was down to a difference of just 16 votes, those ballots could have made a huge difference.
The idea of a closed primary was to allow parties to choose their representatives in a final head-to-head. That’s great in places where party membership populations are more balanced, but terrible in areas like the Bronx where minority parties get no say.
It gives political machines the power they need to swing votes to the candidates of their choice, while ensuring there’s minimal noise outside.
Elections aren’t designed to be pre-determined, they’re supposed to express the views of the people. And those people must be heard.