MOSHE HILL OPINION COLUMNS DECEMBER 27 2023
On the Friday before the long Christmas break, in which no news is going to be paid attention to until the first week of January, Governor Kathy Hochul radically changed New York election law to put Democrats back on top of local elections. Unhappy with a mere supermajority in the Legislative branches in Albany, Hochul dictatorially demands fealty from every county in the state, and will stop at nothing to achieve that goal.
The Legislation aims to move all major odd-year elections to even-year elections where Democrats have higher turnouts. While Governor Hochul claims that this legislation is a “significant step towards expanding access to the ballot box and promoting a more inclusive democracy,” it actually excludes her political opponents in meaningful ways. Local elections are placed in odd-numbered years so they won’t get overshadowed by the hullabaloo of federal elections that occur in even-numbered years.
Voters in New York have voted more in line with conservative thinking regarding their local representation. This is not lost on Democrats, who campaign like Republicans when these elections occur. Looking at mailers in Nassau County, regardless of Party affiliation, you’ll see proclamations of safe streets and lower taxes. Democrats in Albany have no interest in these policies, but their counterparts in County Executive, County Legislature, and Town Council races campaign on these points because that is what people want.
Voters have not been fooled by these changes in Democratic tactics, and overwhelmingly voted Republican in both Nassau and Suffolk counties in 2023. In these counties, areas that Democrats have dominated in both Congressional and Presidential races for decades are becoming more and more Republican.
Hochul is not a fool. She knows that people do not want Democrat policies in these suburban areas. So she’s trying to manipulate the process by banking on down ballot votes against unpopular federal Republicans, namely Donald Trump. She is hoping that so many people come out and vote against Trump, then vote “Democrat” the whole way down the line, against their own interest.
A closer look reveals potential pitfalls and unintended consequences. By consolidating local elections with statewide and legislative elections in even-numbered years, the legislation seeks to increase voter participation. However, the move fails to consider the ramifications on the democratic process and may, in fact, hinder the very inclusivity it aims to achieve.
The praise for this legislation comes from various quarters, with proponents lauding the alignment as a means to save taxpayer dollars and boost voter turnout, two things Democrats never cared about before. The cost of election administration should not be the driving force behind changes that could compromise the integrity of the electoral process. If Democrats wanted their voters to turn out in these elections, then they would put more efforts into these elections. Democrats don’t care about local elections because they have always counted on the power from Albany and Washington to keep these local legislatures in line.
These local legislatures have not been kept down; in fact, they have grown stronger in the face of Hochul’s incompetence. A particular thorn in Hochul’s side is Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman, who is staunchly against Hochul’s plans to urbanize Nassau and flood the county with illegal migrants like she did in New York City. Blakeman, who had a come-from-behind victory in 2021, is accomplishing too much in Nassau and embarrassing Hochul. She can’t have that.
There’s also the fact that there is no attempt to have an informed electorate. Democrats thrive on their voters being as uninformed as possible, harvesting votes from people who have no interest in going to the polls and have no clue what the issues at hand are. For over a decade, survey after survey finds that self-identified Republicans are far more informed about reality than Democrats are. On questions like “how many police shootings of unarmed black men occur in a year,” Democrats tend to answer in the 4- or 5-digit range, Republicans tend to answer in the 2- or 3-digit range. (The answer is around 20.) Similar views on immigration, the economy, Covid, taxes, and a dozen other issues show that Republicans are far more in tune with reality than Democrats are.
This legislation rewards this behavior and thrives on it. Hochul is seeking to secure a Democratic dynasty in New York, despite the fact that similar dynasties have already been attempted in failed states like California. Democrats don’t care. Their goal is power, not what is best for their constituents. So Republicans will have to double down to continue to make gains in the state. Now they’ll have to do it with both hands tied behind their backs, instead of the usual one.