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Avella’s new bills aim to curb election abuse

State Sen. Tony Avella is looking to stop politicians who have resigned from appointing successors with two new bills.
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A new set of bills to be introduced in the state Senate would prohibit party bosses and elected officials who are resigning from appointing their own successors instead of having a special election to fill the seat.

State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) said the two bills were aimed at “abuses,” which was inspired by two Brooklyn elected officials who used a committee on vacancies to decide who would be on the ballot after they gave up their seats. The officials appointed the people on the committee.

Avella’s first bill will restore the committee on vacancies to its usual role of appointing a successor only in the case of death or serious illness and the other bill would require the governor to issue a proclamation for a special election within seven days of the vacancy.

“For far too long, incumbents and party bosses have had a stranglehold on the electoral system, rigging it to their advantage every opportunity they get. This practice of ‘declining’ the ballot line and handpicking your replacement after it is already too late for anyone else to enter the race is nothing short of election fraud,” Avella said. “It deprives voters of both running for office themselves and electing a candidate of their choosing. Rather, it says to the voter that their right to a fair and free election is not worth honoring.”

Councilman David Greenfield (D-Brooklyn) announced he would not run for re-election in July, past the July 13 deadline for City Council candidates to file petitions, and said he would assemble a committee on vacancies to appoint someone to take his place on the ballot in the Nov. 7 election. His wife Dina was on the committee.

“We need serious reform on this practice in New York and changing the ‘Committee on Vacancies’ and ‘Special Election’ processes is the perfect starting point. I look forward to formally introducing this legislation and giving power back to the voter,” Avella said.

After state Sen. Daniel Squadron (D-Brooklyn) announced his resignation from his Brooklyn state Senate seat, Kings County Democratic party boss decided in September that Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh (D–Manhattan) should take Squadron’s place on the ballot. Without another challenger, these candidates are the likely winners of the general election.

Avella said a nonpartisan special election is needed in these instances to allow voters to get their say in who represents their district, and also pointed at U.S. Rep. Joe Crowley (D-Jackson Heights) as another example of a politician who made his way into Congress from the Assembly via similar means.

Avella hopes to bring the bills to the Senate when it reconvenes in January.

Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhallum@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4564.

Updated 12:32 am, July 10, 2018
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