Election 2016

New York's Stingy Voting Rules Will Hurt Independents, Bernie Sanders, and Probably Donald Trump

Major parties going to absurd length to beat back unaffiliated voters with a stick

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Non-voters of New York, unite! ||| Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

For the first time in living memory, today's New York primary could prove pivotal for both major-party presidential races. For Brooklyn native Bernie Sanders, this could be his Waterloo: If he doesn't eke out a victory in the home of Occupy Wall Street and the insurgent Zephyr Teachout campaign, his chances of winning more non-superdelegates than Hillary Clinton before the Democratic National Convention dwindles to virtually nil.

And though Donald Trump will certainly notch a #YUGE victory in the popular statewide vote, today is actually a high-stakes nailbiter for the Manhattan real estate icon, because of the Empire State's Byzantine rules for delegate selection. Each of New York's 27 congressional districts—regardless of whether any actual Republicans live in them—will award three delegates; any candidate winning 50+ percent in that district sweeps all three, but 49.9 percent gets you just two. The same formula is applied to the statewide total, and divvied up between 14 delegates. In plainer English, if Trump wins 50.1 percent in all 27 districts, he gets all 95 of New York's delegates; if he wins 49.9 percent, he gets just 61. That 34-delegate swing alone is larger than the number Trump won with his runaway romp in the state of Tennessee.

How close is Donald's margin for error? Consider that in the last seven New York polls, his percentages have been 50-51-54-49-57-54-55. As New York Times number-cruncher Nate Cohn puts it, "A few votes here or there could make the difference between a solid or shaky road to the Republican nomination." FiveThirtyEight (whose guide to the New York primary is a must-read for those interested), currently has Trump's average projection for overall delegates at a close-but-no-cigar 1,172; its New York projection is for 71. ABC News political analyst Matt Dowd says, "If he picks up north of 75, he has a real path to 1,237." Conservative talker Hugh Hewitt tweets that "If he sweeps 95 delegates a big win. If he's under 80 a loss. In between, meh…contested convention."

So what obstacle could block a few Trump votes here and there? Well, the same one that prevented two of his own children from voting for him today: New York's ridiculously restrictive voting laws.

Poor Larry David! ||| Reason
Reason

As The Nation's Ari Berman recently summarized, "The voter-registration deadline for the April 19 primary closed 25 days beforehand…and independent or unaffiliated voters had to change their party registrations by October 9, 193 days before April 19, to vote in the closed Democratic or Republican primaries. This will disenfranchise nearly 30 percent of New Yorkers."

I'm a lifelong independent, so have no expectation of being handed a gold-plated invitation to vote in a political party's primary (unless those primaries are being financed by even one penny of my taxes, in which case: open up, ya bastidges!). But when I toyed half-heartedly two weeks ago with entering the NY fray to vote against either Trump or Hillary Clinton, hearing back that I needed to have made that call six months ago was clarifying. At a time when major-party affiliation is in (IMO) irreversible decline, the two remaining clumps of bitter-clingers are grasping at any available stick to beat back potential swarms of enthusiastic (and often righteously hostile) outsiders.

Professional Democrats and Republicans have a reflexive and sneering distrust of motivated independents, up until the very moment they become one (welcome aboard, Jonah Goldberg!). Front-runner Hillary Clinton, who has consistently trailed Bernie Sanders among independents by a staggering 50 percentage points, sniffs: "He's a relatively new Democrat, and, in fact, I'm not even sure he is one. He's running as one. So I don't know quite how to characterize him." Then you probably would not know how to characterize millennials, Madame Secretary, which may help explain why they're just not that into you.  

Donald Trump's success in attracting unaffiliated conservatives in open-primary states has left many Republicans calling for even more closed primaries. You can disdain Trump, and conclude that much of his process-complaints are just sour grapes, while still acknowledging that the system occasionally is deliberately anti-democratic, and not in a particularly clever way. A party that treats repeated insurgencies within its own base as a problem to be contained is a party that refuses to learn—and as a direct result, continues to wither.

There are legal cases against closed primaries; click here and here for more. Ultimately I'm more fascinated by the sight—and the opportunities that flow from it—of dwindling duopolists trying desperately to fire their potential best new customers. Unaffiliated voters make up a plurality in states like Connecticut; you think they're looking at the party shenanigans next door and second-guessing that decision?

Swarms of independent voters are the future of American politics. They will not always swarm in the direction you want, but they are upending the political status quo every two years, notching at least some libertarian victories, and proving instinctively allergic to top-down control. If they lose both major-party nominating fights this year, Lord only knows how that vast and unpredictable energy will be spent next.

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  1. Real New Yorkers are comfortable with having a handful of elites making our decisions for us.

    1. “Real” as in the Spanish, as in El Camino Real and Real Estate. It’s Ordained Destiny!

    2. Most New Yorkers are retarded faggot cookies.

      1. You are weak with the art of the insult. I’ve been insulted by far better.

      2. My superiors in New York are considering allowing us to buy alcohol on Sunday mornings. Yeah. They are pretty great.

        1. We used to not be able to buy liquor at all on Sundays.

      3. retarded faggot cookies.

        are these gluten free? because I just cant even gluten.

  2. and independent or unaffiliated voters had to change their party registrations by October 9, 193 days before April 19, to vote in the closed Democratic or Republican primaries. This will disenfranchise nearly 30 percent of New Yorkers.”

    No one has been disenfranchised by being left out of the primary for a party they did not associate with. The fact that the primary is suddenly interesting does not change the fact that for however long said individuals did not claim association with these parties. If you have had a heartfelt conversion to a party, there’s plenty of time to change party egistration for future elections. The timing was set up specifically to avoid waves of people messing with the processes of parties they didn’t actually affiliate with.

    1. This completely. If a voter really wanted to decide whether a major political party nominates a turd sandwich that looks like a BLT or a turd sandwich that looks like a meatball sub; then they would join the turd sandwich party. There aren’t any other choices within that party.

      The only way to avoid having a choice between a turd sandwich and a giant douche in the general election is to stop voting for either major party. They will change what they offer if more than 1% or so of independent voters decide to say screw you both with their votes. 99% of voters going along with the major parties is a resounding vote that voters like whats on offer.

    2. This is a particularly stupid complaint for Trump’s brood of retards, since he announced he was running as a Republican in June.

      1. Sure, but what if they thought that he’d drop out for sure by now or that the presidential primary would be over by now so that they’d rather stay voting for the lesser evil Democrats in the state primary like they always do? Probably applies to anti-Trump national Republicans as well in NYC.

    3. No one has been disenfranchised by being left out of the primary for a party they did not associate with.

      Especially considering how easy it is to enroll in a party.

      I’ve never gotten open primaries.

      1. I can imagine people preferring, say, Jeb and Hillary to all the others. There are certainly Rand & Bernie voters, also Trump & Bernie voters, etc. I can easily imagine people wanting to switch parties for primary purposes after their favored candidate drops out in a presidential primary. Doesn’t make sense for local elections nearly as much.

        That said, no reason why you have to allow it. New York probably has extra people with weird registration due to allowing electoral fusion.

  3. Meh. The more chance that Bernie loses the better. I think he may be pure evil….seeing how he is a full blown commie

  4. In that attached Super Delegates video, shouldn’t Debbie Waaserman-Schuktz be Womderdog instead of Womder Woman?

    1. Wonder Warthog.

  5. Why would a truly independent voter want to participate in a party’s nomination selection process? Why would he assume he had right to participate on short notice? Why would the party want such people participating?

    If you really do not want to affiliate with any political party, that is your choice and good for you. However, it is not disfranchisement if they do not let you help select the leaders of their club when you made it clear that you do not want to be a member.

    1. Yeah, the whole point of being an independent for me is I don’t want to be in one of their clubs. Who they nominate is no business of mine.

  6. … while still acknowledging that the system occasionally is deliberately anti-democratic, and not in a particularly clever way.

    Why even have parties if any old candidate can come along with any old platform and take votes from one or the other? Honestly, Welch, sometimes you just don’t seem to think things through.

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  9. Somewhere, Ron Paul is laughing. He won 21.5 of the vote in the Iowa caucus in 2012, yet got 22 of the 28 Iowa votes at the convention. It Trump were 1/10 as smart as he thought he was, he would have hired Ron Paul as a consultant.

    1. 21.5%

    2. It’s clearly Ted Cruz who is following that strategy. The rules designed to block Ron Paul are thus helping Trump (and hurting Cruz).

  10. To be fair, New York allows electoral fusion, which causes it to have stronger third and smaller parties than anywhere else in the country. Doesn’t make a difference in national elections, though.

    1. I have never seen the satellite parties nominate someone who wasn’t from the major parties.

  11. I think in most states, most parties would not choose to have primaries at all if the state law didn’t make them.

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