Today is the big day–it’s primary day in New York. The state that is likely to give Donald Trump his biggest win yet, and the first closed primary state to likely hand him an actual majority of votes, could allow him to steal more delegates due to its arcane voting laws.
Steal? Well, yes. If you use Trump’s definition of stealing, meaning getting delegates that weren’t specifically voted to you by “the will of the people.” In fact, Trump could conceivably take New York with less than 40 percent of identified Republican voters. Here’s how.
No early voting
Unlike 37 states, voters in New York can only vote on Election Day. Period. And if you want to vote absentee, you have to provide a valid excuse, like you’re out of town or have a disability. You either come to the polls or you don’t vote. Period.
It’s a given that Cruz has a better ground game than Trump, but not in New York. In the cities, it’s easier to get to polls with public transportation and ample city services. In the more rural areas, it might as well be western North Carolina or Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana. You have to get there for your vote to count.
If you’re in “the city” or Long Island and there’s a 2-hour line at closing time, you can bet the polls will stay open for the last voter. In Skaneateles, tiny Onondaga County, if you don’t make it to the Fire Hall or the Presbyterian Church between noon and 9 p.m., you can’t vote.
Those rural counties are far more likely to break away from city-dweller Trump.
Very early registration
Voter registration closed on March 25, 25 days before Election Day. If you didn’t register by that date, you don’t get to come to the dance. There’s no same-day registration. Even so, new registrations in Rockland and Westchester counties over the past 10 months topped 35,000, with more than 3,600 party affiliation changes and 1,800 unaffiliated voters joining a party.
The spike in interest in the primary means headaches for local election officials. Westchester County Board of Elections Commissioner Reginald LaFayette said the message to residents on Tuesday is simple: If you’re not registered with one of the two major political parties, stay home.
“Don’t come to the dance if you’re not going to dance,” said LaFayette, who is also the county’s Democratic Party chairman. “We’re very much concerned that people that are not eligible to vote will show up, people who aren’t registered to vote.”
Very closed primary with > 6 months of lock-in
This is the most draconian rule in New York: if you were a registered Democrat (meaning you voted Democrat in prior primaries), or if you were an independent, and wanted to vote in the Republican primary, you had to change your party affiliation by October 9, 2015. That’s more than 6 months prior to Election Day.
This will disenfranchise nearly 30 percent of New Yorkers, including, most famously, the Trump children, who didn’t change their registrations from independent to Republican in time.
For comparison’s sake, there wasn’t even state-specific polling available for New York until March of this year. National polling on October 9 had Trump at 23 percent, Carson at 17, Rubio at 10, Cruz at 7 and Kasich at 2.9. Everyone thought Trump would flame out. If you were an independent and don’t like Trump, you were locked out. Sorry, Charlie, your vote doesn’t count.
Provisional ballots, closed rooms, and purges
New York law requires voters to prove their eligibility, leading to charges of voter suppression and even a lawsuit. Voters who believe they are eligible but Board of Election records don’t show their claimed status may use a provisional ballot, but those ballots are subject to what the suit calls “one of the nation’s most opaque and oppressive voter laws.”
The suit also claims “purges” which have caused voter rolls to change without consent of the voter.
One Brooklyn resident recounts registering as a new voter last month and, upon being unable to find her registration, calling the Brooklyn BOE only to be told it was probably lost in the mail. Photojournalist Natalie Keyssar said she registered by mail within 48 hours of the March 25th deadline for forms to be postmarked, and that when she returned from an assignment in Mexico on Friday, she looked online to see where to vote, but found she is not registered. Repeated calls to the county board didn’t go through, and after an hour of trying again today, she said she reached a Ms. Jackson who told her that she “shouldn’t have left it till so close to the deadline,” that the office was receiving some 2,000 forms a day towards the end, and that her record can’t be found, likely because it hasn’t been processed yet.
This is unlikely to affect Trump’s totals, but over a large state and millions of voters, essentially there’s no option for last-minute changes in a very close district. This could potentially determine whether a district yields all its delegates to Trump or they are split proportionally.
The disenfranchised and stolen districts
With somewhere around 27 percent of New York voters disenfranchised (including Trump’s own children), Trump could conceivably win all of the state’s 27 districts with only 73 percent of voters who wish to cast Republican primary ballots. He could win some districts with just 40 percent of the voters and receive 2 delegates with the third place finisher shut out.
Let’s say, for example, if Trump gets trounced in the 8th and 15th districts (relatively speaking), Brooklyn and the Bronx, respectively, where lots of African-American and Jewish voters are grouped against him. Let’s say Trump clips Cruz by 5 points in the 8th, but Kasich finishes a point ahead in a close race. Cruz gets no delegates despite getting over 30 percent of the vote. If Trump gets 50 percent plus one vote in the 15th, he takes all 3 delegates.
In this way, Trump could win every single delegate in New York with only 38 percent of the “real,” Republican vote. So much for “the will of the people.”
And Donald complains about Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming, where the delegate rules were published for months and he only needed to do a better job organizing. In New York, Cruz had no chance from the beginning.
If any primary in America could be called “rigged,” it’s New York. And you won’t hear a single peep from Trump or his surrogates. Not one single word.