(EDITOR’S NOTE, 9/14/18, 12:39 PM ET: This article has been updated to account for Kathy Hochul’s primary win over Jumaane Williams.)
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo (D-New York) defeated progressive underdog and former Sex and the City star Cynthia Nixon despite allegations of corruption in a state The Atlantic said has the worst voting system in America.
With just over a third of the precincts reporting, the New York Times called the Thursday primary for Cuomo, who amassed 66 percent of the vote. Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul also won her primary over New York City council member Jumaane Williams, though he lost by a slimmer margin than Nixon. Additionally, democratic socialist Julia Salazar has been declared the winner of her State Senate primary bid.
The Atlantic called New York’s voting system “retrograde” during Thursday’s primary, citing antiquated methods for voter registration requiring paperwork be stamped and mailed sometimes months in advance, a “closed primary” system making it hard for voters to change party identification, severe limits on absentee voting, and no early voting. Similarly, Slate decried it as “horrifically screwed up,” but Slate had another reason.
Vote suppression in @NYGovCuomo's New York: a thread.
— Sean T. Collins (@theseantcollins) September 13, 2018
And to me. At the place where I have been voting since 2009. https://t.co/6zVrK1Kcp2
— Julia Turner (@juliaturner) September 13, 2018
— VOTE TODAY NY (@EcoSexuality) September 13, 2018
Went into vote skipping. But just found out my name was not listed on the roll at my polling place. Despite having the recently sent documentation from board of elections with me. Had to fill out provisional. #Astoria #Queens #NYPrimaries pic.twitter.com/X1koftPJut
— Nomi: TODAY Vote Cynthia, Jumaane, Zephyr 🌹 (@NomikiKonst) September 13, 2018
This is insane to think NY is cleansing voter rolls.
— Amy Siskind (@Amy_Siskind) September 13, 2018
Voters across New York took to Twitter in an outcry over a new issue to add to the laundry list of failings in New York’s voting system: On top of multiple primary dates (only two this year, they had three different primaries in 2016) and failure to follow Department of Justice standards, voters this year were purged from the Democratic Party voter rolls.
But not even this is all that new. Voters were purged by the State in 2014 and 2015, but the problem wasn’t discovered until 2016.
“This is a perennial problem,” said Common Cause New York Executive Director Susan Lerner. “It’s very hard to maintain an active voter roll, but in New York City it’s particularly challenging because of the large number of voters, the way people move around readily and the fact systems are not user friendly.”
More than not being user friendly, New York’s system was characterized as “technophobic” by Slate. Rather than digitally sending poll workers up-to-date voter rolls, New York sends the roster of registered voters to a printer, who produces a paper book that must be manually searched by poll staff for each voter’s information. Voter information is also manually entered into the database, and even minor human error can prevent someone from casting their ballot.
Tonight, the system ultimately helped defeat Cynthia Nixon and support Andrew Cuomo. However, the extent to which the system can be faulted, or the extent to which it could one day hurt Cuomo, is unknowable without extensive investigation.
“If progressives are not already alarmed at how bad our voting laws are in New York, they should be,” said State Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Queens).
Even if the issue of purges can be faithfully addressed, the broad host of issues created by a deeply broken electoral system in New York remains. The state’s political powers have had the chance to pass a suite of changes to modernize their stuttering system and have so far not chosen to do so.
Perhaps now as grim irony, Cynthia Nixon’s website lists “empowering voters” as one of her central issues.
Katelyn Kivel is a contributing editor and senior legal reporter for Grit Post in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Follow her on Twitter @KatelynKivel.