In March, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the New York state legislature voted to sidestep the thorny issue of whether to establish a system of publicly-financed campaigns on a statewide basis, instead outsourcing the decision to a new commission.
That commission on public financing held its first public meeting in Manhattan on Tuesday to consider not only getting big money out of politics, but whether to also eliminate fusion voting, which allows candidates to run on multiple party lines.
"Fusion voting allows those people who do not feel that they fit in a two-party system to be able to have a voice!" Democratic State Sen. Jessica Ramos of Queens said at a rally outside the meeting location. "That has effectively pushed the Democratic Party to the left, which is where it should be!"
Critics say Cuomo and the two legislative leaders broadened the charge of the commission to consider fusion voting as a "poison pill" — although Cuomo says he doesn't feel strongly about fusion voting one way or another.
"I don't have any recommendation to the commission," he said. "They should use their own independent judgment."
But the commission itself is already showing signs that it's not all that independent. For one, its chair, Jay Jacobs, is also Cuomo's handpicked Democratic state chairman. And even the website for the commission takes visitors to Cuomo's homepage, not an independent website.
"The reason why we came up with the commission is no one had a satisfactory bill to incorporate in the budget," Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said.
There was even some early 2021 mayoral race posturing over this issue, with City Council Speaker Corey Johnson and Comptroller Scott Stringer speaking against a ban on fusion voting.
"If the legislature wants to have a discussion about fusion voting, that's for a later date," Stringer said. "But I don't think that should be part of this discussion. It only takes away from getting big money and big corporations out of politics."
This was the first of four public hearings throughout the state. There will one on Long island, one in Buffalo, and another in Albany.
The commission is set to report its findings to the legislature by December 1. If the legislature takes no action whatsoever, the recommendations will be binding and automatically become law.
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