Our Day in Court - Open Primaries
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Posted by jesse shayne on December 07, 2016 at 2:45 PM

Our Day in Court

Yesterday afternoon, lawyer and activist Mark Moody delivered his legal argument on the unconstitutionality of New York’s closed primary system. Moody also argued that New York’s change of party affiliation deadline -- the earliest in the country -- places an unfair burden on voters.

Two lawyers -- one from the Board of Elections and another from Attorney General Schneiderman’s office -- stood in defense of an electoral system that prohibits 3.2 million voters from participating in the most impactful round of voting.

The courtroom was overflowing with dozens of supporters of open primaries and independent voter rights; the security guards shepherded extra seats from the backroom throughout the trial; the judge made an exception and let spectators sit in the jury box after admitting that he had never seen so many people in his courtroom; and there were still twenty more activists standing in the corner.

No one in the audience was there to support closed primaries.

After approximately an hour of legal debate, and fifteen minutes of deliberation, New York State Supreme Judge Arthur Engoron issued a ruling -- vested in prior decisions by the Supreme Court and circuit courts of other states -- that New York’s closed primary system and change of party affiliation deadline might be arcane, but they are not unconstitutional. He dismissed the challenge.

In other words, Judge Engeron admitted what we all already know, which is that the political establishment believes that party rights are more important than the rights of voters in New York State. The ruling was certainly not unexpected, and Mark is considering a challenge.

This was an important and positive step forward for our movement after an historically chaotic primary season in New York. We made ourselves heard loud and clear, by packing the courtroom and forcing the establishment to admit, on the record, that the rights of parties are paramount.

The road ahead for us certainly won’t be easy; the establishment of both parties -- who have far too much control over New York’s elections -- stand firmly in our way. But we will not be deterred until everyone in New York can vote in every election.

Thank you to everyone who came out and packed the courtroom and forced the New York State Supreme Court to acknowledge our movement yesterday.

Showing 3 reactions

commented 2016-12-22 23:31:14 -0500 · Flag
Amend constitution!!!
commented 2016-12-22 22:53:09 -0500 · Flag
Unfortunately the judge is right. Each party is a closed members-only group of private citizens and, as long as they don’t discriminate against protected groups, the constitution is on their side. This is why I think what we need is an amendment to the constitution that establishes a single open national primary. The private-citizen political parties can continue to have their primaries (and pay for them themselves) to determine who their representative for the national primary will be, but the only one that would count would be the national primary. The amendment wouldn’t need to (but could) end the electoral college, because it only affects the primaries. This would also end the distortion to the electoral college brought on by having more than two candidates on most state’s ballots for president. There could only be two candidates left standing, ensuring that one or the other would get enough nominal or electoral college votes to win.
commented 2016-12-22 19:27:42 -0500 · Flag
Considering the fact that our country was founded on the concept of “No Taxation Without Representation”, and New York’s arcane Primary rules caused the state – when compared to 234 nations that hold democratic elections – to be rated as having the most undemocratic and oppressive voting restrictions in the entire civilized world, major changes are necessary. To that end, I believe that voter registration must occur automatically upon being assigned a Social Security Number – and tied to that number – so that the last four digits should serve as proof of eligibility. As to party affiliations – if any – they should remain completely private and inconsequential. The rule should always be: one person=one vote. Failing that, we’ll need to create a new “No Say, No Pay” law to ensure no taxation without representation! Case in point, after having voted in every single election since 1972, I found myself purged from the voter rolls when I went to vote in the NY Primary on April 19th – as many of the people who filed in behind me discovered, in addition to numerous friends, neighbors, and family members throughout NY State. Recently, we discovered our affidavits and provisional ballots had also been tossed. Suffice it to say, none of us were amused. Anyone prevented from voting should be automatically exempted from paying ALL taxes – most especially ALL STATE TAXES – until their full voting rights are restored. Furthermore, Election Day should either be on a weekend or declared a National Holiday as it is in every nation, but ours. Worst of all, my polling place did not even open until 12:00 noon on April 19, 2016 – practically ensuring that most severely overworked, overcharged, overtaxed, but underpaid workers (like me), had no chance to vote. This horrid situation cannot persist – nor the vote rigging that occurred in so many states I’ve lost count. And don’t even get me started on pre-pledged, pre-invested, Corporate Lobbyist Superdelegates or the predatory payday/loanshark protector Debbie Wasserman Shultz whose husband is an executive at NGPVan – the software company responsible for the three early ‘breaches’ they tried to smear Bernie with. Despicable! The entire Democratic primary was/is a horrid joke! This is why I left the Democratic Party, and why I’m leaving New York State too, where I was born and raised, To live my principles – and to have a voice – I just bought a house in the state that has the most open Primaries and voting system of all – and the least amount of taxes.
Enough is enough.
“No Say, No Pay” – draft the law and pass it now – before all caring, thinking, hard-working taxpayers exit the state as well, as well they all should!