Two weeks ago, Democratic State Sen. Malcolm Smith was arrested and charged with trying to bribe his way into the Republican mayoral primary, prompting cries for reform from both ends of the political spectrum. Today, Governor Andrew Cuomo rolled out a series of proposals that he hopes will address many of these concerns.
“You’ve heard the expression pay to play, this is pay to run,” Mr. Cuomo said at a press conference announcing the measures. “The allegations that the minor parties basically, on occasion, have used campaign contributions to determine who gets the line and it’s almost that the line goes to the highest bidder.”
Specifically, Mr. Cuomo proposed an end to the Wilson-Pakula Act, a 1947 law which mandates that a candidate must obtain the permission of party leaders to compete in that party’s primary if he or she is currently enrolled in a different party. Instead, Mr. Cuomo said candidates would simply collect signatures to petition for a ballot line regardless of their enrollment.
In another attempt to reduce the power of the political parties, Mr. Cuomo said he wants to alter enrollment deadlines to make it easier for candidates to change their affiliation. Currently, if a voter or candidate currently decides to change their affiliation, it’s is not valid until the next general election year. Under Mr. Cuomo’s proposal, a voter’s party registration change would take effect in just three months, perhaps eliminating the need for Mr. Smith to deal with allegedly corrupt party bosses to begin with.
Echoing others who have called the State Board of Elections a “toothless tiger,” Mr. Cuomo also said he would seek to create an independent enforcement unit at the B.O.E. that would be authorized to investigate possible violations of election laws.
Last week Mr. Cuomo additionally proposed a number of other legislative changes to toughen the state’s bribery laws and make it easier for district attorneys to prosecute political corruption.