Part 2: A fix for indies in NY’s primaries


Trying to exercise my right to vote is turning into a full time job.

A bit of background: As a registered Green, I cannot vote for Bernie because NY – like 28 other states – has a closed primary system meaning only voters registered for the party holding the primary may vote in that primary.

So here’s what happened next in my continued campaign to be able to vote in the primary!

On March 9 I called my local Queens Board of Elections to see if they got the letter I sent March 4 requesting I be removed from the voter lists as the 1st step in the 2 step “fix” someone there had suggested to me then. The receptionist said no, no sign of your letter. And told me the official cut off date to switch party affiliation for the upcoming election was October 9, 2015. (not a typo)

Requesting a supervisor, I was transferred to Nina who confirmed my letter hadn’t come, asked if I’d mailed it to their new address, not what’s on the voter form (!) and yes I had.

I told her that when I called March 4 a staff member explained a 2 step process to enable me to vote in this year’s primary even though currently registered Green: Step 1: Cancel my current registration. Step 2: Register as a new voter. I was told this could be accomplished by March 25, the deadline for new voter registration to participate in this year’s election. Nina confirmed this was possible, but said it is not done. That’s not standard procedure.

I asked if coming in person could help make this happen and one hour later walked into the Queens Board of Elections. While waiting for Nina, I took a few voter reg forms from the counter. “Wait!” snapped the attendant nervously. “How many are you taking? I have to record that.” I settled on 6 not wanting to deplete Queens of their supply:)

Nina brought a colleague, Lynn, as witness or for support? In their presence I signed and handed Nina my letter containing the required name, birth date, address requesting I be cancelled from the voting rolls. She said the letter would enter the work pile and be scanned and processed, saying this could perhaps be done that day.

They strenuously assured me every voter has the right to remove himself from the voting rolls. I ask: “But do people actually want to do that?” “Yes! Many!” “Really?” I asked for numbers, percentages – she snorted a half laugh. No hard data forthcoming. This warrants a further look. People in droves going through the bureaucratic process to get deleted from the voting rolls. Intriguing!

They stressed once the cancellation is processed, my past voting history would be closed. “Erased?” I ask, knowing now nothing can be. “No, but this begins a brand new voting record not connected to your past.” It seems the right to remove oneself, the right not to participate, is more staunchly defended and more easily available than the right to vote.

They stayed with me as I filled out a new voter reg form, listing myself as a Democrat. She strongly urged me to leave it with her, I’m guessing to ward off a 2nd face-to-face visit. Nina earlier explained the actual processing of new registrations is handled by staff from the political parties who validate and process them at the central Board of Elections.

Towards the end of our meeting which took place standing just inside their waiting room, Nina handed me 2 pages of NY State Election Law. That threw me. I didn’t read it but asked loudly, repeatedly “Am I doing anything illegal here? Is this legal, what I’ve done? Are you sure I’m not doing anything wrong?” “You know I’m doing this to be able to vote in the April primary.” Both firmly asserted: “Not illegal, absolutely not!”

But Nina again said: “The woman who told you one could do this work around shouldn’t have. She is just a switchboard operator and should not have shared such information with the public.” Huh?? Parse that for me? This really warrants a deeper look.

“I get how this could add to your workload”, offering a bit of disingenuous empathy and eliciting a reflexive laugh of admission. All that scanning, then looking up the voter’s name, canceling them out of the system, having the parties pick up & process tons of new registrations…. God help us!

We agreed I’d check in early next week to confirm the status of the process. Readers, I’ll keep you posted! We cordially shook hands. They were always polite and helpful, if far from encouraging.

Now to see if it works!

There’s a chance my new voter registration will be put in a box and sealed until after November. Read a bit of election law below. In which case I won’t even be able to vote in the November general election!!

Looking up NY election law I find one of the paragraphs they handed me and a whole bunch more, clad heavily in legalese:

Change of Party Enrollment

The voter registration form should be used to change your party enrollment from one party to another or to enroll for the first time in a party. A change of enrollment received no later than 25 days before the general election shall be deposited in a sealed enrollment box and opened the first Tuesday following that general election and entered in the voter’s registration record.

For the full law (656 pp plus 20 pp index)