While the mayor’s thrown his weight (and money) behind nonpartisan elections, good government advocates say he’s supporting another ballot measure that would undercut that goal.
Among the administrative changes proposed in Question Five is shrinking the beleaguered Voter Assistance Commission from 16 members to seven, and allowing the mayor to appoint five of those members.
That doesn’t sit well with those whose work helped spawn the commission in 1988. “Something as sensitive as voter registration should not be controlled by one partisan entity,” said Neal Rosenstein, Government Reform Coordinator at the New York Public Interest Research Group. “It’s like a hostile takeover by Mayor Bloomberg.”
Ron Hayduk, who served as the commission’s coordinator from 1993 to 1996, agrees, but points out that VAC has always been a “political football.” It was well-funded under Dinkins, he says, because the Democratic mayor saw it as a potential tool for registering underrepresented and minority voters–who are often Democrats. Under Giuliani and Bloomberg, however, VAC has withered in size and clout. So have the city’s voter registration efforts. A recent City Council investigation found that 65% of city agencies surveyed were not distributing voter registration forms, as required by law.
Alan Gartner, executive director of the mayor-appointed Charter Revision Commission, says this proposal would help strengthen the commission by making it a more manageable size. And while the mayor would control more seats, he said, those appointments would still require Council approval.
Rosenstein is unswayed. “They don’t want to have problems from their commissioners,” he said. “If they appoint five out of seven, they’re not going to have problems.”