New York votes today in very important contests for the Democratic and Republican candidates for president. On the Democratic side, Hillary, who is favored to win, can further reduce Bernie’s slim chances of winning the Democratic nomination. On the Republican side, it appears to be a matter of not if but by how much the Donald will win his home state. The margin is extremely important, however, because he has an upward battle to clinch the nomination before the RNC convention in Cleveland, and if he doesn’t he’ll likely struggle to win the nomination.
One thing garnering a lot of press is New York’s relatively onerous requirements to vote in the primaries. New York has closed primaries, meaning one must be a registered Democrat to vote in the Democratic primary or a registered Republican to vote in the Republican primary, and has early cut off dates to change party registration and register for a party for the first time. Certain areas of New York also have shorter hours for voting in primaries (noon to 9 pm) than for voting in general elections (6 am to 9 pm).
New York’s rules should be scrutinized. There are legitimate arguments that open primaries are better than closed primaries and that polling stations should have the same hours, and long ones, throughout a state.
Recently, rather than debating the merits of the rules, Bernie supporters have been arguing that New York’s rules are attempts by Hillary and/or the establishment to help her and harm him since she tends to do better with registered Democrats and he with independents. These arguments lack merit.
The rules apply to both parties, which is why the Donald’s kids won’t be able to vote for their old man in the primary. This is not the Democratic machine working on behalf of Hillary. In fact, New York’s voter registration form clearly states right next to the choice to enroll in a political party or not that: “Political party enrollment is optional but that, in order to vote in a primary election of a political party, a voter must enroll in that political party, unless state party rules allow otherwise.”
More importantly, the rules have been around and known for a long time. The law dictating primary voting hours, section 8-100, was last amended in July 2013, strong evidence that the voting hours were not dictated by Hillary’s team to shut down Bernie considering he announced his candidacy in April of 2015. Last year, Bernie supporters set up websites to try to drive voters to change affiliations and register before the relevant deadlines. News articles before the earliest deadline last year discussed the upcoming deadline and that there was targeted action by Bernie supporters to raise awareness to “slactivists, coffee-shop socialists, and Green Party members.” The issue isn’t new to this election cycle either. Here is an article from 2008 discussing the same issue and noting that there was a legal challenge to New York’s primary system, the same one in effect today, that led the United States Supreme Court, in the early 1970s, to hold that the system is constitutional.
Nothing has changed with New York voting rules so it’s ridiculous to assert that Hillary or the establishment is acting to harm Bernie. To borrow anti-discrimination law language, the rules may have a disparate impact on Bernie but there is certainly no intentional discrimination. The rules were set before Hillary or Bernie decided to run and they both need to live with them and work within them.