NY election law that ‘nationalizes’ local politics flies under the radar despite being ‘monumental’: expert

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New York state ushered in a “revolutionary” election law reform that nationalized and restructured local elections, but it received overwhelmingly no public attention, according to election lawyers.

“This hasn’t even gotten as much attention in New York as I would have hoped,” New York Republican election attorney Joe Burns told Fox News Digital. “Again, this is a monumental moment for voters. Because it’s a change,” he told FOX News Digital.

Days before Christmas, Democratic New York Gov. Kathy Hochul signed a Democratic-backed bill that would move town, village and county elections to even years, along with high-profile gubernatorial and presidential elections. Burns told Fox News Digital that local elections are expected to be drowned out by large-scale campaigns for state and federal offices, and that the new law is likely to be overturned and that local candidates will be He explained that he may focus his attention on national issues rather than campaign platforms.

“This is truly revolutionary,” Burns said.

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There are piles of “I voted” stickers at voting stations. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Republicans in New York’s Onondaga County, home to Syracuse in the central part of the state, voted this month to approve a $100,000 fund to begin the process of suing New York state, saying the sweeping changes violate local rules. did.

“We call on County Executive Ryan McMahon to oppose New York State’s recent overreach of the county’s constitutional and charter independence,” Republican Onondaga County Council Chairman Timothy Burtis said, according to Spectrum News. , and the power to bring suit.”

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“The new law is a brazen attempt to dismantle Onondaga County’s legal independence without due process,” Burtis added.

The county’s Republican Party claims the new law is an attack on the county charter.

new york state capitol

New York State Capitol Building in Albany. (FOX News Photo/Joshua Commins)

“That’s the really big issue,” Burns said. “The state constitution gives a tremendous amount of protection to the way states organize themselves. That means the state can intervene and hold local offices, “They can’t demand that from executives and county legislators. They’re demanding that terms be truncated and that officers be elected in even years,” Burns said.

Burns sent a letter to the Onondaga County Council last week, before legal fees were formally secured, arguing that “fundamental changes” would be “bad for local government and bad for our democracy.”

“In this era of angry bipartisan politics, is this what New York really needs? Will it strengthen our democracy? Will it improve our system of self-government? No. , no, and no,” Burns wrote.

Democratic lawmakers who supported the bill argued that it would increase voter turnout because high-profile presidential and state elections draw more voters than local elections. The bill has been floating around Albany in recent years and was expected to pass in 2022, but to no avail. The state House and Senate ultimately approved the bill in June, hours before the end of the 2023 legislative session.

The law will officially take effect next year.

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Kathy Hochul of Albany

New York Governor Kathy Hochul speaks during the State of the State Address on Tuesday, January 9, 2024 in Albany, New York. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

“I think it’s a great discussion,” Burns said of how Republicans in the county are approaching the lawsuit. “This new law forces these counties to elect representatives in even years, violating Article IX of the state constitution, which includes the Local Government Bill of Rights.”

A New York attorney told Fox News Digital that he believes the lawsuit has a “very high chance of success” and that other counties will soon follow suit, or at least monitor the situation.

Other counties “might think, ‘Let’s move forward and hopefully we’ll be successful.'” “And that would apply to similar county governments, specifically chartered counties like Onondaga County,” he said.

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Although this law affected county and town elections, it did not affect elections for cities, district attorneys, sheriffs, etc., as they are governed by the state constitution. Burns said the law does not affect New York City, so this sweeping election change is likely to receive little local or national attention.

Bird's eye view of downtown Manhattan

This law does not affect New York City. (FOX News Photo/Joshua Commins)

“Where is the media capital of not just New York, but maybe the world? New York City. Well, guess what? What do they have in New York City? They have City Hall. I mean, They are not affected.”

But in non-urban local governments, candidates are more likely to focus on national issues rather than local issues such as infrastructure development or deploying snowplows to clear roads during storms, Burns said. he insisted.


“Under this new law, elections for offices such as town clerk, town highway supervisor, and county councilman will appear on the same general election ballot as races for Congress, U.S. Senate, and President. Candidates in these local office races compete in multi-million dollar contests to capture the attention of voters, although candidates may raise and spend just a few thousand dollars over an entire campaign period. candidates will be forced to compete,” Burns wrote in a letter supporting the planned lawsuit.

“Local concerns will be silenced and local politics nationalized.”



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