Political Action: Two races for state Assembly expected for boro in slow year

By William Lewis

As we get closer to the 2011 election cycle, it is evident that certain changes are needed, mostly involving military and overseas ballots. There was significant controversy in 2010 that some military personnel did not get to have their votes counted. That was especially true in New York, which has a considerable number of voters who serve in the armed forces overseas.

The city Board of Elections commissioners are expected to go to Albany this week to meet with officials from the state Board of Elections and Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s staff about the possibility of moving the Primary Day election from September to an earlier month. It is believed this would be helpful in improving the process and giving the BOE more time to get ballots to the military and returned in a timely manner.

It is also believed by some BOE members that there should be a review of current election laws from the standpoint of bringing our laws up to date in view of the recent technological changes in voting machines and procedures.

Looking at elections in terms of changes in calendar dates, if the primaries were held earlier it would mean petition drives would probably be held earlier, thereby eliminating petition signature gathering during the summer months of June and July. We used to have June primaries, so perhaps something can be done to eliminate summer petitioning.

This year in Queens, there are only regular elections for a few judgeships and Queens district attorney, but there is now at least one special election for state Assembly. Assemblywoman Nettie Mayersohn (D-Flushing) has resigned her position after 38 years of service.

There is a probability that Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer (D-Rockaway Beach) will be giving up her seat after representing the 23rd District for 24 years. She has indicated her intention to accept the position of Queens County clerk, which has been offered to her.

Her chief of staff Joanne Shapiro, who has also served 24 years on Pheffer’s staff, would probably run to succeed her in a special election. Republican District Leader Jane Deacy intends to run for the position. She has already held a fund-raiser for her campaign.

When there is a special election, the county executive committees of all the political parties involved choose candidates. There will be no primaries, but there may be other candidates besides Deacy who may be interested in running on the Republican line.

The city BOE has indicated that it would prefer to hold all special elections on the same day as a cost-saving measure. The final decision on when these elections will be held is up to Cuomo.

In the past, special elections have been especially unpredictable due to low voter turnout, but in the 23rd District, there seems to be a lot of interest developing in the special election. In the weeks ahead, it will be determined as to how these situations play out.

In what had been a year of few elections, this year will bring on some interesting races.

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