Poughkeepsie used to be part of the NY-19th voting district, but after the last census an, it was carved out and added to NY-18. Though done by a judge, it was nonetheless a form of political cheating known as gerrymandering. It’s such a large and distorting problem that even if there is a “blue wave” this November, and Democrats turn out more voters than Republicans, the House of Representatives could stay in the control of Republicans even though they are out-voted by millions.
Aside from gerrymandered districts, there are other factors in New York State that give the minority Republicans an electoral advantage. For all of its progressive thinking, New York has a surprisingly dated voting system. Democrats in NY have been pushing hard for voting reforms that would bring us up to par with dozens of other states, reforms such as Early Voting, Online Registration and Same Day Registration. Each of these items expands the scope of likely voters and increases voter participation, which is abysmally low in New York State.
Last week, funding for Early Voting was included in the proposed state budget, but by yesterday, it had disappeared, along with a host of other budget items that Democrats wanted. Why did all of these things disappear from the budget of a solidly blue state? Because our state government is essentially controlled by the Republicans. Eight Democrats, who call themselves the IDC (the “independent Democratic caucus”) have effectively been bribed (with committee roles and other perks) by the state Republicans to vote with them. And incredibly, the IDC has been coddled and protected by Governor Cuomo.
It turns out that local elections have huge consequences. They determine the voting rules of the state, which make it easier or harder for citizens to vote, and they have a large impact on the election of Representatives to Congress because they can gerrymander the composition of Congressional districts.
It’s important to work hard to replace John Faso this November, but it’s equally important to replace Republican State Legislative Reps with Democrats, and to replace IDC Democrats with real Democrats. These local races have been a huge focus for billionaire plutocrats like the Koch Brothers for years, and they have done a great job of spending millions to pack state governments with extremists who do their bidding at the expense of everyone else. We have to wake up and make these local races an equal priority to the Federal elections that get most of the headlines.
Here in Dutchess County, we made great progress last year at the County level, reducing the Republican majority in the County Legislature. And Democrats already control the State House of Representatives. But controlling the State Senate is the most important goal. Our current Rep is Republican Sue Serino, and we have to do everything we can to send her back to the private sector. Her challenger is Karen Smythe, and this race is as important as the challenge to Faso. Until we take back the power in these local races, we face an uphill battle at the national level. We have a lot of work to do this year, but we can achieve our goals if we stay focused and energized.