Fallout continues in the presidential primary election cycle as a nationwide breakdown in the electoral process makes its way to the fore. Causing voter unrest and compelling citizen protests, the inability of the states’ elections boards to properly implement the Democratic process, saw lawsuits underway in two federal courts Tuesday.
In Brooklyn, Election Justice USA (EJUSA), a voter advocacy group, returned to U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York on Wednesday to file additional paperwork in an emergency action asking the court to order the restoration of more than 63,000 people purged from New York’s voter rolls. The purge rendered them ineligible to vote in Tuesday’s presidential primary by no action of their own.
“The next step in our lawsuit, our attorneys are heading to the Board of Elections in Brooklyn to formally serve papers at 4 p.m. today, Shyla Nelson, spokesperson for EJUSA said in an email update. “We just got word that a protest is scheduled to happen there at the same time…rumors of up to 400 people there.”
The citizen advocacy group MoneyOut/VotersIn organized the rally at Federal Court to coincide with the court filing. At rally time they had several hundred people signed up to join the protest.
“To be clear, we are not going to stop this protest until everybody who was denied an opportunity to vote gets to vote! We will be holding a vigil through the night, sharing our stories, and standing together,” read a Facebook message on the organizations rally invite.
Disenfranchised voters who showed up to vote were told to vote provisional ballots. The lawsuit requests that all verified provisional ballots cast be counted and tallied in the NY Primary vote prior to the vote certification due in May.
In addition to those disenfranchised by Board of Elections actions, an estimated 3.2 million Independent voters were prohibited from voting in New York’s closed primary.
Closed primaries, those that only allow party-registered Democrats or Republicans to cast ballots, disproportionately affect candidates like, U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders whose base includes a significant percentage of Independent and unaffiliated supporters.
Coupled with the purge of 126,000 of Sanders hometown crowd of Brooklyn Democrats prior to the primary, the deprivation of democracy in the process only fueled the call for open primaries and transparency in the electoral system.
April 26 is primary day in Rhode Island, Connecticut
As the New York lawsuit gets underway and a similar suit is being vetted in Arizona, the candidates and advocacy groups turned to the upcoming primaries in Rhode Island, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Delaware, all to be held on April 26.
In Rhode Island, problems have already begun to appear, with local news outlets, talk radio shows and advocacy groups testing the state system.
According to a report from WPRI TV reporter, Ted Nesi, the R.I. Board of Elections has cut the number of polling places it intends to open on primary day.
Only 144 of Rhode Island’s 419 polling places for the April 26 presidential primary will be open, 1 in 3 of those open in a November general election. Per Nesi, the number is also less than those open in 2008’s presidential primary.
The reasoning behind the closed polls was perhaps the most disturbing, to “reduce the cost of administering the vote.”
Radio outlets, taking calls from voters began vetting complaints, and maneuvering through the process. Tara Granahan of WPRO’s Talk Radio found broken links and difficulties with the Board of Elections (BoE) online information system. The BoE is a division of the office of the Rhode Island Secretary of State.
In Connecticut, as of October 2015, there were almost 1 million independent or unaffiliated voters registered. The number of unafilliated or Independent voters in Connecticut outweighs registered Democrats at nearly 777,000, and Republicans at 429,000.
Connecticut’s Secretary of State also listed 22,000 minor parties voters.
Stonington Selectman, Michael Spellman, “jumped” parties during his many years of public service. An Independent, who grew up in a decidedly blue household, Spellman was both an active Democrat and Republican, before unaffiliating from partisan politics.
“My realization and frustration is my vote will have no impact on who is nominated.” – Stonington Selectman, Michael Spellman (Ind.)
Endorsed by the Republican Party in the 2012 local primary to run alongside First Selectman candidate, Former U.S. Congressman and Retired Army Colonel Robert R. Simmons, Spellman’s political ideologies are a unique blend of Conservative and Liberal.
“I’m a social liberal on many issues,” he said. “I am a supporter of civil rights. I am pro-choice and advocate hard for women’s issues.”
Simmons and Spellman won the election. A lifelong resident and public servant to the State of Connecticut, Spellman grew up in Pawcatuck, just over the border from Rhode Island. The retired Lieutenant and Commanding Officer in the Connecticut State Police now serves as Selectman to the Town of Stonington where he raised his family.
A former supporter of President Bill Clinton, Spellman decided in 2016 that the Democrats had gone to far to the left of his political ideology and were unreceptive to moderating voices.
“Irrespective of party affiliation, the economy dominates all discussion. In New England all but a select few communities face the three “H” problems of Hunger, Housing, and Heroin,” Spellman said, indicating his left-leaning tendencies.
He and his family members haven’t decided on a candidate who appeals to all. A mix of two Republicans, a Democrat registered as unaffiliated and himself, the current presidential field was under close scrutiny.
“It is my belief that it is the poor economy that has ignited the runs of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders,” Spellman said. “On the Democratic side, super delegates or party insiders will likely give the nod to Secretary Clinton. Senator Sanders has run a strong campaign, but the mainstream media will not allow the challenge.”
Spellman said that appealing to a partisan base in a respective party is a key factor in serving in a political office.
“What is truly alarming in modern national politics is that to obtain a party nomination and the requisite financing to run a campaign, they have to appease the hard left and hard right of the major parties,” the selectman said.
“A political record of service and compromise for the nation’s greater good is often overlooked. A sound bite appealing to a partisan base in a respective party is far more valuable to getting a nomination.”
On the GOP side, Spellman felt that the contentious and often Hollywood-like drama of the campaigns drew attention away from candidates and issues.
“That Senator Webb and Governor Kasich and their messages were lost in this heated dialogue is unfortunate,” he said.
“Donald Trump is a media sensation but his bellicose tone which taps into voter anger, may wear thin in the march to November. He is not a GOP insider and a contested convention looms,” the former Republican said.
Spellman’s bottom line message was one heard across party lines in 2016.
“The parties are going to determine the nominees; the people are going to determine the President.”