Wednesday, June 2, 2010

City Officials, Civil Rights Leaders, and Grassroots Organizations Rally Against Nonpartisan Elections...

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A growing coalition of city officials, civil rights leaders, civic groups and grassroots organizations rallied today near City Hall against a controversial proposal to make New York City elections nonpartisan, a move soundly rejected by New York City voters in 2003.

The groups say nonpartisan elections have been shown to suppress voter turnout, deny voters critical information about candidates, privilege well-known and wealthy candidates and make it harder for minority candidates to compete in elections. The rally is being held on the same day that the Charter Revision Commission is holding a hearing on voter participation issues, including nonpartisan elections.

Public Advocate Bill de Blasio said: “Nonpartisan elections undermine our democracy. They create a political system that is dominated by wealth, suppresses voter turnout and makes it harder for minority candidates to compete. Our broad coalition will fight to stop nonpartisan elections and preserve the diversity and integrity of our City’s democracy.”

Voters want to know where candidates stand,” said New York City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn. “Party affiliations are important because they clearly tell voters where candidates stand on many social and fiscal issues that matter to our city’s electorate.”

Former Comptroller Bill Thompson said: “New Yorkers voted overwhelmingly in 2003 that knowing a candidates party is important to them and helped them identify the candidates’ core values and beliefs. Knowing your elected officials beliefs matter and the Charter Commission should listen to the voters of New York City and reject nonpartisan elections.”

So-called minorities have been a majority in New York City for decades, but we've still had only one Mayor of-color, and the first majority minority City Council was elected just 6 months ago,” said Hazel Dukes President of the NAACP New York State Conference. “We've made tremendous racial progress in this city, but non-partisan elections threatens to undo those gains. The Charter Commission should listen to the voters of New York City and reject this bad idea.”

Adopting nonpartisan elections would be rolling the dice with the city's democracy," said Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer. “This proposal risks reversing decades of gains by minorities in city government at a moment when New York is more diverse than ever before.”

Simply put, political parties give voters an idea of the beliefs of candidates,” said Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz. “To increase voter turnout, we should be looking for ways to make it easier for voters to know where candidates stand, not more difficult. I’m a proud Democrat, and when I say that, I know it means something to people. The reality is, doing away with party affiliation gives unfair advantage to those who can buy the most name-recognition. The party system—be it two parties, three, or even more—is the best way for the electorate to form like-minded communities and to figure out which candidates share their civic goals.”

The question of nonpartisan elections was already placed before the voters of this City in 2003, and it was soundly rejected by a two-to-one margin. The Charter Revision Commission should not waste its time rehashing old business, especially unpopular ideas that have the potential to disenfranchise African-American and Latino voters. The voters have already sent a crystal clear message that they do not want nonpartisan elections, and asking them again would only waste time and resources that could be put to better use,” said Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.

Susan Lerner, Executive Director, Director of Common Cause said, “Study after study reveals that nonpartisan elections actually decrease voter turnout and disadvantage minority and working class voters. If we truly want to increase civic participation, the Commission should look into changing the time of the municipal election to the fall when federal elections are held and instituting a Vote by Mail system. The Commission should be looking to put more information on the ballot, rather than less.”

Dan Cantor, Working Families Party Executive Director said: “Voters know nonpartisan elections weakens our democracy and gives another leg up to wealthy candidates who can outspend the competition. That’s why they’ve resoundingly rejected the idea, and why the Charter Commission should too.”

Nonpartisan elections will further disengage low-wage communities of color from the political process,” said Hector Figueroa, 32BJ Secretary-Treasurer. “We should be focusing on strategies to reach out to these communities, not to turn them away.”