Reform New York Primary Elections

Any time — not just primary-election time — is a good time to recall why New York should reform how political parties select candidates for governor and lieutenant governor.

Some states elect governors and lieutenant governors entirely separately. Sometimes those elected this way work well together, and sometimes not. It doesn’t take much imagination to see what can happen when they’re of different parties.

Other states elect governors and lieutenant governors together. They may or may not seek party nominations together, yet they run together and are elected together, on the same ticket. In that sense, they’re like presidents and vice presidents have been since the Twelfth Amendment.

Then there’s New York, where parties nominate tickets for governor and lieutenant governor, yet when a primary-election ensues, party candidates for governor and lieutenant governor run separately in their own primaries. The winners of the party’s primaries for governor and lieutenant governor then run on the party’s ticket in November. This means a party may get a ticket of candidates whose first choice wasn’t to be together.

In 2018, this won’t happen to New York Republicans, and, as of this writing, we don’t know whether this will happen to New York Democrats. Yet this happened to New York Democrats in 1982 and New York Republicans in 2010.

And there’s more.

In New York, individual candidates can run on multiple parties’ lines in November. Their November vote totals are the aggregate of what the individuals receive on each line.

Tickets of candidates can also run on multiple parties’ lines in November. Their November vote totals are the aggregate of what the tickets – not the individuals, but the tickets — receive on each line. So if a major party endorses one ticket and a similarly minded minor party endorses another ticket, the votes for the different tickets are not aggregated even if they have one candidate in common.

Which is why when similarly minded major and minor parties divide their endorsements through primaries, they sometimes scramble to try to align their tickets after primaries.

All of this happens while some in the other major party or similarly minded minor parties snicker at the chaos that has just broken out among their opponents.

Yeah, they know that one year the shoe may well be — and probably will be — on their foot, but at least for that moment, it’s not. So hah, hah, hah.

Enough of this silliness.

It’s way past time for candidates for governor and lieutenant governor to run as tickets in primaries.

Will this guarantee good results in November? No, but it will help reduce the abundant silliness in New York.

West Ellicott resident Randy Elf, a former law clerk to two federal judges who has defended First Amendment rights to political speech in federal courts from Maine to Hawaii, explored seeking the Republican and Conservative parties’ nominations for New York attorney general in 2018.

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