Disenfranchised!

Not surprisingly, New York’s last-minute, court-mandated redistricting has gotten the BOE a little mixed up.

I’m not talking about Florida voter roll purge, I’m talking about right here in NYC! Me!

With this year’s redistricting, my congressional district has changed, and I even get to vote in a primary on June 26. All the maps I can find say this is true, I’ve been getting mail from incumbent Nydia Velazquez and one of her three challengers. And they’ve already delivered the privacy booths and ballot scanners to my building’s lobby, so I know I’m not crazy.

But I’m not going to be in town that day, so I ran over to 200 Varick Street this afternoon to get an absentee ballot. They looked me up in the computer, pulled up my election district, looked that number up on a wall chart that lists all the election districts with June contests, and told me: I don’t have anything to vote on next week. They even printed it out for me:

status as of: 6.18.2012.12:18:47 EDT — There appears to be no contests for this voter in the next election for the 045/65

That last number — 045/65 — is my election district (045) and assembly district (65). (Those are my new district numbers, by the way … my old ones were 075/64.)

That’s the correct ED/AD, as far as I can tell — Latfor’s map agrees, and so does the map at the NYC BOE website.

But what about my congressional district? This nice interactive tool from the New York Times confirms that I am now in CD 7; so does this tool from CUNY Center for Urban Research, which also confirms new state Assembly and Senate districts. CD 7 definitely has a primary. (Even the New York Times thinks so.)

Next up, I go to the NYC BOE website and enter my address. That tool spits out my old Assembly district but my new Congressional district, and links to a sample ballot for next week’s primary.

I look a little closer. That sample ballot has printed on it the AD/EDs for which it is valid, but they are the old districts, not the new ones. Apparently next week’s primaries for new Congressional districts are being held along old ED/AD lines. So when the guy at the BOE tried to match my new AD/ED with a list of old AD/EDs with contests next week, he came up empty.

I like to vote. I’m going back tomorrow to see if I can get a ballot.

Update, next day: Settled. Tim Gay, Deputy Chief Clerk at the BOE in Manhattan, was very helpful and spoke to his desk clerks. When I went back, I was able to get a ballot and vote. Still, if any NYC election comes down to the wire, expect trouble.

Voting: What a Nuisance!

Some people have to take to the streets and overthrow a military dictator to gain the right to vote. Others just have to whip the redcoats. But once you’ve gained that right, and practiced it for a couple hundred years, it’s just so annoying.

At least that’s what Albany tells us: voting, apparently, gets in the way of all the labor-intensive memorializing that goes on for September 11. So even though that’s the date our state primaries are supposed to be this year, legislators have pushed the date two days to September 13. Why? Apparently something to do with first responders having trouble securing all the polling places. Also, this gem from Speaker Sheldon Silver: “Sept. 11 is a day that people should reflect on what happened … people should focus on that, rather than being bombarded with telephone calls [reminding them to vote.]”

Ok, a few things.

One, there’s really nothing better for the vitality of our democracy than voting. It should be a celebration, a worthy commemoration of how, eleven years after the attack, we are unbowed. In fact, I’m sure everyone remembers that on September 11, 2001 there was a primary that had to be cancelled mid-vote because of the horror. You’d think our patriotic response would be to never let those durn terrists ruin another election. Instead, we’re saying: ok, you win that one.

Two, is it really going to be like this forever? I wasn’t this bummed in 2007 when NY did the same thing, pushing the primary a whole week to 9/18, because we were all still in the haze, really, of the attack, still fighting in Iraq, bin Laden was still alive. But is it really necessary to do in 2012? And now that the precedent has been set, what governor will ever want to be the one who decides 9/11 wasn’t really that big a deal after all?

Three, September 13 is a Thursday. We never vote on a Thursday. After the lousy rollout of new voting machines in 2010, the last-minute redistricting this year, now this — do our elected representatives in Albany actually want us to vote?

Four, I live in Silver’s district and I don’t think I’ve ever received a call from his campaign on primary day, so he’s already doing his part to keep it cool.

When Is An Incumbent Not An Incumbent?

© Drew Roberts

Redistricting has finally happened in New York. Senate and Assembly districts have been carved, predictably, by the two parties in order to maintain their respective control of the two chambers in Albany. Congressional districts, on the other hand, were drawn by a federal judge, who grew impatient with legislators’ inability to cooperate when partisan advantage was not so easy to gain.

And now we are in the interregnum, when incumbents presume to represent their old districts while presenting themselves to their new constituents for inevitable re-election.

In a fair world, no one would be able to run for “re-election” after redistricting, since that word carries a significant psychological weight. Someone sending me campaign mail that says “Re-elect Representative A,” encourages me to think I’ve voted for Rep A before — even though I haven’t.

Take one example in the neighborhood I pay attention to. Eliot Engel, who currently represents Mount Vernon, small parts of the Bronx and Yonkers, and a big chunk of Rockland County across the Hudson, will now be running in a district that encompasses a large part of southern Westchester and nothing in Rockland. If Engel lived in Spring Valley, this new district NY-16 would be an open seat, and Engel would have to run in a primary against fellow-incumbent Nita Lowey. But since he lives in Riverdale, he instead gets to run for “re-election.”

In a letter last week Engel danced around the point:

“I am very enthused about the honor of representing the new 16th District of New York. I have always had the honor and privilege of representing people from the Bronx and Westchester communities while in Congress. Now, due to Federal court redistricting of Congressional Districts, many Westchester residents will be new to the Congressional District that I have represented.”

Not his fault, of course, this is just the odd way we talk about redistricting. But it’s a bit absurd. I mean, if Dennis Kucinich moves from Ohio to run for Congress in Washington State, does he print up bumperstickers that say “Re-elect Kucinich”?

For New Yorkers, there’s this great map that really illustrates how districts are shifting for the next election. You can search for your address and see the lines wiggle around your block. The only data that’s missing is, where do today’s incumbent’s reside? Without that information, you have no idea who your brand new incumbent will be.

Analysis: NY Senate District 37 Drawn for Maximum Republicans

Cohen, obviously tipped off early by the Republicans drawing the new lines, moved to New Rochelle last year.

The New York World has a very useful map online that ports 2010 votes into 2012 (proposed) district lines. Their finding? Not so surprising: Democrats in the Assembly have drawn lines to increase their majority, and Republicans in the Senate have drawn lines to increase their majority.

But Senate Distrct 37 stands out in their report. Won by incumbent Suzi Oppenheimer (D) in 2010 by a bare 600 votes, the district has been drawn “street-by-street” to make it look like a pretty safe bet for Oppenheimer’s wealthy 2010 challenger, Bob Cohen, who is running again (while Oppenheimer, no dummy, is retiring).

In the reconfigured 37th district proposed by LATFOR, a Republican would win in 2012 by more than 6,000 votes if each voter selected the candidate from the same major party whose nominee they backed in 2010.

One odd fact: Cohen’s lavish home in Scarsdale has been drawn out of the district, seeing as how Scarsdale voters were key to Oppenheimer’s last victory. Not to worry … Cohen, obviously tipped off early by the Republicans drawing the new lines, moved to New Rochelle last year.

But did the Republicans drew the lines too well? The district now looks so ripe that Cohen may face a primary challenge from Eastchester Supervisor Anthony Colavita. That is, if anyone up in Albany can ever agree on when those primaries will be.