New York election reform Heroes and Zeros

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Chris Edes, New York Caucus Leader
Phone: 585-202-7741

New York election reform Heroes and Zeros

This year’s legislative session has been an exciting one for New York. While lacking the pure drama of the last tumultuous two-year session, this year has seen many significant accomplishments, such as passage of the first on-time budget since 1983.

Not much has been reported, however, from the perspective of electoral reform. To that end, Free & Equal would like to recognize a few of New York’s political “heroes and zeros.”

HERO: State Senator Joseph Robach introduced, and the State Senate passed, a constitutional amendment that would allow New Yorkers to enact and amend laws through initiative and referendum. New York is known for having the country’s most dysfunctional state government, dominated by a few political bosses. Free & Equal congratulates Senator Robach for leading the way in restoring power to the people.

HERO: State Senator Roy McDonald, during a recent announcement that he was changing his vote in favor of same-sex marriage, said in part: “You might not like that. You might be very cynical about that. Well, f— it, I don’t care what you think. I’m trying to do the right thing… I’m tired of Republican-Democrat politics. They can take the job and shove it.” Free & Equal encourages other political leaders to adopt Senator McDonald’s view of major party politics.

Of course, there were also low points. Free & Equal examines just one.

ZERO: This year’s ethics reform bill makes some positive changes. Yet New York’s political elites couldn’t resist adding one provision that enshrines the Democrats and Republicans in special positions of power. The proposed Joint Commission on Public Ethics would be composed, by law, of only Democrats and Republicans. Governor Cuomo was asked about the role of independents at a recent news conference. “They don’t exist!” was Cuomo’s response, according to the Wall Street Journal, “at which point he and legislative leaders standing beside him broke into a hearty laugh.”

Yes, progress is slow in the Empire State, but the spirit of independence remains alive. According to Free & Equal CIO and New York resident Chris Edes, who also lives in Senator Robach’s district: “New York can work its way back to responsible government, but it will take hard work. Leaders like Senator Robach are stepping up to the plate. When the legislature reconvenes in January, it will be time for New York’s citizens to demand action.”


The Free & Equal Elections Foundation is a nonpartisan, non-profit public-policy advocacy organization dedicated to election reform and improving ballot access laws in the United States.