Early voting is underway across the state of New York, and we are one week away from Primary Day.
WNYC’s senior political correspondent Brigid Bergin joined WNYC's "Morning Edition" host Michael Hill for a rundown on the latest political news and what you need to know this week.
Early voting started this weekend. Can you remind voters exactly what is on the ballot for this first summer primary? This is the primary for statewide offices, like governor and lieutenant governor, along with state Assembly primaries and, depending on where you live, possibly some judicial contests or races for party positions. The easiest way to find out where to vote and what is on your ballot if you are registered in New York City is to visit findmypollsite.vote.nyc. That’s where you can find your poll site, for early voting or for Primary Day. And you can also select an option to see a sample ballot so you will know exactly who is on your ballot for this primary. Final note, remember that New York has a closed primary system, so only registered party voters, mostly Democrats and Republicans, can vote in this election.
Speaking of Republicans, the candidates for governor debated on Spectrum News/NY1 last night in New York City, and they will debate again tonight on Newsmax in Rochester. Any highlights from last night’s debate? This was a 90-minute debate where, like the first Republican debate, Andrew Giuliani joined virtually due to his vaccination status. The extra time meant that the candidates could really be pressed more on policy issues. One stand-out moment to me was when the candidates were asked whether they believed former President Donald Trump actually won the 2020 election. That's an argument that is central to the ongoing January 6th insurrection hearings which resume today. The clearest answers were from Andrew Giuliani, who said he believed Trump won the election, citing claims that have been tossed out of courts in states across the country. That was juxtaposed with Harry Wilson, who said he believed President Joe Biden was the duly-elected president, and that Republicans ought to move on.
I think you can expect more conversation about issues like that, appealing to a further right-wing constituency, during tonight’s Newsmax debate.
Yesterday marked the federal observance of the Juneteenth holiday. Governor Kathy Hochul came to Brooklyn to sign state voting rights legislation. Tell us more about what the law does and why she signed it yesterday? Advocates call it the strongest state voting rights bill in the nation. It aims to block voter suppression, dilution or intimidation by forcing election officials to seek approval from the attorney general’s office or a local court before making changes to how they run elections. For example, if they decide to reduce the number of poll sites. This really becomes an issue in jurisdictions with a history of racial discrimination. The process is known as pre-clearance and all of New York City would qualify as one of those jurisdictions. Basically, it is the state level response to inaction by federal officials to protect voting rights, especially after the pre-clearance provision was removed from the federal Voting Rights Act in 2013.
Without a doubt, this is Gov. Hochul trying to send a message by signing it yesterday, on the Juneteenth holiday — signaling to New York voters, and especially voters of color, that New York is watching their rights.
Hochul also picked up an endorsement last week from Mayor Eric Adams. What’s the significance of that support especially this close to the primary? Hochul is a very non-traditional incumbent. She only has one budget, and one legislative session to point to. Picking up Adams’ endorsement does help bolster her support potentially among some Black voters, especially in parts of the city where he performed really well, like southeast Queens, which also happens to be a place where people really turn out to vote. I think it would have been a bigger story if he had not endorsed her. Because as much as it helps Hochul, I think certainly Adams is hoping for some leverage out of this. For example, securing a veto for the smaller class size legislation that passed at the end of the session. It also really delivers a blow to someone like Tom Suozzi, a candidate and Long Island congressman who was an Adams supporter and at one point was considered a possible deputy mayor appointment. Adams' decision to endorse Hochul was as much about supporting her as it was about not backing Suozzi. There were also the New York Times and Daily News endorsements she received in recent days.
Even though the June 28th primary is a week away, the campaigning in some parts of the city may just be getting started. For listeners who might be trying to keep these elections straight, remind us again what’s happening here? As a reminder, we have another primary coming up on August 23rd for congressional and state Senate contests. So, for example, if you live in Chinatown or Park Slope, you are part of the newly drawn 10th Congressional District where some 15 Democrats are vying to become the nominee — and ultimately the newest Congress member from New York City. There is a lot to talk about here, and in other races. And we will be talking to voters and candidates about the issues that matter in these races in the coming weeks. But for now, we are focused on the statewide and Assembly primary on June 28th.
What else is on your radar this week? Michael we are in U.S. Supreme Court limbo, waiting for possible opinions related to abortion access and the right carry concealed weapons stemming from a case here in New York. Opinions are expected to be issued today and Thursday this week. Either of those decisions will likely send a shockwave through the city’s political systems. For candidates running for office, if they have equivocated in anyway, there will be no hiding from these rulings.
Also, early voting runs through Sunday of this week. Then sites shut down for a day and re-open for Primary Day next Tuesday. I am interested in seeing what turnout looks like — we have some preliminary numbers but it’s really hard to gauge things since this is the first gubernatorial primary election with early voting. The law took effect in 2019, so it will be interesting to see turnout at the end of all of this.