Today is one of the most important days on the primary calendar: New York is finally voting! The stakes are high for candidates in both parties, but especially so for the Democrats, each vying for part of the 247 delegates up for grabs.
However, millions of New Yorkers will be unable to take part in today’s voting: aside from the scores of independent voters who are ineligible to take part in closed party primaries, in which only party members can vote, many thousands more reportedly discovered recently that their voter registrations had been changed.
Both Ivanka and Eric Trump missed the October 2015 deadline to change their voter registrations to Republican so they could support their father, and they’re not alone: around 3.2 million New York voters can’t vote in today’s primary, and many of them favor the anti-establishment candidacies of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump.
According to Vice News, political minorities are disproportionately affected by the state’s election laws. Around 37 percent of New Yorkers under 30 don’t identify with either party, and 15 percent of African American voters and 22 percent of Latino voters were also politically unaffiliated.
Furthermore, recent revelations of voter roll purges show that even some committed party voters may be shut out of voting: the names of 126,000 Brooklyn registered Democrats have been removed from voter rolls since November 2015, resulting in a net loss of 63,500 registered Democratic voters. Executive director at the NYC Board of Elections Michael Ryan told WNYC that the drop was the result of the removal of inactive voters and the address changes of those leaving the borough.
But such a dramatic loss is still suspect, even to New York City’s Brooklynite mayor Bill de Blasio, who told WNYC “I admit that Brooklyn has had a lot of transient population – that’s obvious. Lot of people moving in, lot of people moving out. That might account for some of it. But I’m confused since so many people have moved in, that the number would move that much in the negative direction.”
The Election Justice USA, which describes itself as “a national organization advancing election integrity, transparency, and the protection of voting rights,” filed a lawsuit yesterday on behalf of “all disenfranchised and purged voters,” alleging that the unapproved registration changes deny affected voters equal protection under the law. The organization has called for a blanket order allowing “tens of thousands” of potential plaintiffs to vote in the primary today.
“We were seeing an alarming number of voter affiliations changed without people’s knowledge or consent, people who were registered listed as not registered,” said Shyla Nelson, a spokeswoman for Election Justice USA, to local New York City publication Gothamist. But, given that the lawsuit was filed just yesterday, it is unlikely that a decision will be made before polls close at 9 p.m. tonight.
Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders brought up that fact, which will undoubtedly impact his support levels in the state, during a campaign rally in Washington Square Park last week. “We have a system here in New York where independents can’t get involved in the democratic primary,” he said. “Where young people who have not previously registered and want to register today just can’t do it. So this is going be a tough primary for us.”
Of course, New York’s primary has been closed to independents for decades.
For Hillary Clinton, the absence of independent voters skews the Democratic vote for her, given she has polled poorly among Democratic-leaning independents. And while Donald Trump remains nearly unchallenged in the state, his argument that the party systems are “corrupt” has focused squarely on primaries and caucuses that he can paint as “undemocratic.”
“I hope it doesn’t involve violence. I hope it doesn’t. I’m not suggesting that,” he said Sunday, referring this time to the Republican National Committee’s delegate system. “I hope it doesn’t involve violence, and I don’t think it will. But I will say this, it’s a rigged system, it’s a crooked system. It’s 100 percent corrupt.”
Photo: A demonstrator dressed as U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump protests outside the Trump Tower building in midtown Manhattan in New York March 19, 2016. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid