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Oh, SmAlbany!

Daily posts and occasional longer essays about politics, culture, and life in the Capital Region...updated M-F, midmorning

"I write this not as a booster of Albany, which I am, nor an apologist for the city, which I sometimes am, but rather as a person whose imagination has become fused with a single place, and in that place finds all the elements that a man ever needs..." -W. Kennedy, from O Albany!

election day

Vote for Pedro: Wait, that was last year's bad pun. Anyway, 3 things I'd suggest you keep in mind on election day 2005:

#1 - Local government has far more impact on your life than any other level of goverment: So take it seriously. And that means vote. If you don't know alot about the candidates, head over to the Times Union voter guide or search the web a bit for information. Or just vote based on your major party affiliation - I know that sounds lazy and establishment-cozy, but it correctly matches your preferences to the right candidate 8 times out of 10. And that's what party cues are for, especially in the lesser races where information is particular hard to find.** But in any case, make sure you vote. And promise yourself you'll spend a little more time on local politics next year.

UPDATE: A commenter reminded me that Metroland has candidate interviews for most of the races that are in the city of Albany and a few races outside of Albany.

#2 - If you are going to vote for a major party candidate, do it on a minor party line: This is a habit that is worth cultivating if you care about procedural democracy. New York State has very stringent requirements for parties to get on the ballot. They need to keep getting votes in elections in order to stay on the ballot. It's not a problem for the major parties, but it often can be the life and death of the minor parties. It makes absolutely no difference in the election if you vote for Jennings on the Democratic line or the Conservative line. But it means the world to the conservative party, which is constantly fighting to stay on the ballot. I see no reason for New York to have such high ballot restrictions, so I think it's important to do what you can to help the minor parties stick around. It's good for democracy.***

#3 - Don't "not vote" because the races are already deicded: As I've written previously, democratic elections, for better or worse, do more than simply pick winners. They send signals to politicians and voters about the power and support of winners. Winning with 51% is very different than winning with 78%. So if you feel strongly about a candidate one way or another, you can affect politics with your vote even if the election is not close.

**I know that sounds harsh and very un-progressive, but I'm being a realist. Election day is not the day to fix democracy. I wish everyone was informed and cared about politics, but that's not reality.

***Two points here. First, it may not be the case that the minor parties have to worry about this in the current election. It might only be the quadrennial election years that count toward whether or not you stay on the ballot as a party. I don't know. But get in the habit of voting on the minor party lines, because it certainly does matter at some point, and its costless to you.

Second, I encourage this because it is basically the two major parties in collusion that keeps the ballot standards so high. No sensible system of democracy would make it as hard as New York does to get on the ballot, and as easy as New York does to get kicked off the ballot for the next election. More political parties is almost always a good thing, and third parties are great at keeping the major parties in line.
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At 10:39 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said:

There's also a list of interviews with each of the candidates on Metroland's site:


... it provides a bit more information about each candidate's personality and such.    

At 10:54 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said:

Since New York is one of very very few states that allow ballot fusion (i.e. a major party candidate to be also on a minor party line) I would think it would be a lot easier for the minor parties to get the required numbers of votes--if they occasionally endorse major party candidates. Maybe that's why the standards are so high?

In any case, I completely agree with you--the standards are too high, and we should make use of our rare opportunity to vote for a winner but do it on a line that both supports minor parties and sends a message to politicans about where their ideological support comes from (that last bit means that I'm not likely to vote on the Conservative line, even though I support their right to be on the ballot).    

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