Want to Vote? Join the Club
A lot of people have been asking me about the elections, and how I can possibly win without a lot more signage. Early voting started last week, the last day to cast your ballot is this Tuesday (6/27), and I don’t have a single yard sign up. Then again, I am not on the ballot.
This is because the current election is to determine who will be chosen as the Democratic candidate, and I am running as an Independent. The actual election to determine who is chosen for Common Council is in November (hence my lack of yard signs). So why is there so much hype around the primaries? Because one must look back more than 20 years to find an election wherein a Democrat did not win in the City of Ithaca. In Ithaca, if you win the Democratic Primary, you win the General.
And this is a problem for representative democracy. According to the most recent voter rolls, almost 1 out of 5 of the city’s voters are registered as non-affiliated. Not surprising when you consider Ithaca’s non-conformist nature. But that means close to 20% of the electorate does not get a voice in establishing their representatives. Add in voters who are party-affiliated but not Democrats, and the disenfranchised rises to 28%. This is extraordinary.
The salience of this became apparent to me a few weeks ago at the primary debates. A good friend of mine lives in the first Ward and is deeply concerned about the revised flood maps and their impact on insurance costs and property values. He attended the debates, but because he is a registered Independent, he cannot vote on the outcome.
Of course, anyone can change their party affiliation, but doing so merely to participate strengthens the notion that politics is solely transactional. Over the last few years, Democrats have upheld increased voter access as a core value of their party; it is ironic that they have become the gatekeepers of suffrage in our fair city.
To be clear, this has more to do with New York operating a closed primary system than with any political party. Nevertheless, it is worth pointing out that we have found ourselves in a situation where a significant portion of registered voters are unable to participate in determining political representation.
The real reason I chose to run as an Independent was because I was too late to apply for the Democratic primaries. Yet, now I am proud to be running as an Independent. I am far more interested in representing my community than any political party. Though you cannot vote for me in the primaries, anyone can vote for me in the Generals on November 7th. And I look forward to representing everyone in my Ward, regardless of party affiliation.
 In 1999, the Democratic candidate for Mayor lost to the incumbent, Alan Cohen, who ran as an Independent under the Community Party (no affiliation). After 1999, no candidate has won a seat on city Council or the Mayor’s post without first winning the Democratic primary.