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Lawmakers Call for Special Elections to Fill Vacancies in State Legislature

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With the resignation of one state Assemblyman over the weekend and the conviction of another Monday, there are now 11 vacancies in the state legislature, but Governor Andrew Cuomo has no plans to fill them with a special election, which some lawmakers say is unfair. NY1's Zack Fink filed the following report.

Scandal has plagued the state legislature.

Monday's guilty verdict of Assemblyman Eric Stevenson was a reminder that numerous controversies over the past two years have not only been a distraction, but have also reduced representation of New York City residents in their state legislature.

"Most of the people who are being denied access to representation are black and Latino, and so I think that's inappropriate," said state Senator Kevin Parker of Brooklyn. "I certainly think that the governor is going to want to provide representation for those folks."

The way Governor Andrew Cuomo can ensure full representation for more than 1 million people is by calling a special election to fill 11 vacancies in the Senate and Assembly, something he said late last year, he has no intention of doing.

"We don't have any plans right now to call special elections," he said on November 18 of last year. "It's a balance of the cost and the hardship of the election versus the community's right to representation, but we don't have any plans as of now."

In December, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver told reporters that he doesn't think it's appropriate for these vacancies to remain unfilled.

This week, however, he changed his tune a bit and was much less emphatic about the need for a special election.

"I think the governor has to evaluate all of that and see, I guess there are a million people who will not be represented by the 11 vacancies that exist," Silver said.

Critics say that with billions of dollars at stake in the budget, it's only fair that communities have representation in determining how it gets divided.

"This is a situation I've never seen before, where a governor has decided not to call a special election," Parker said. "The question is not how much it's going to cost us if we provide democracy."

By law, it takes 70 days for a special election to be held from the day it is declared, so at this point, it's too late to fill the vacancies before the budget is due on April 1. However, one can certainly take place before the legislative session concludes in June.

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