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Politics & Government

Colgate Professor: NYS Election System Fell Apart In Close NY-22 Race; Tenney Vulnerable


A political science professor at Colgate University says New York’s antiquated election system clearly wasn’t up to the task of handling the razor-thin margin in the 22nd congressional district race.  Colgate lies in the expansive district which sweeps from the eastern tip of Lake Ontario down to the Pennsylvania line. 

Assistant Professor Sam Rosenfeld says the state’s decentralized approach to election administration contributed to the three month wait to certify a winner.

"There's a state board of elections that doesn't provide much resources or training to county level boards of elections.   The county level elections supervisors are patronage appointments by county parties.   Both of the Oneida County supervisors just got reappointed.  There's clearly not a rigorous merit assessment that is a part of this."

Oneida County’s elections commissioners were reappointed late last year before subsequent court proceedings revealed serious errors in ballot counting and voter registration.  But  Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente, a republican, asked Governor Cuomo on Tuesday to remove the commissioners after a judge cited violations of state and federal election laws.  As we know, Republican Claudia Tenney emerged victorious over Anthony Brindisi by just over 100 votes.   Rosenfeld says Tenney is the quintessential nationalized politician.

"Unlike republican predecessors in the district that approached lawmaking and representation in a moderate way, she's very plugged into the national level partisan debate.  She likes to appear on national media outlets.  She's a huge fan of Trump.  She's very engaged in the national partisan scrum."

Which, at the same time, he says, could also be a source of vulnerability.  In contrast, Rosenfeld says Brindisi took a more old-fashioned approach by keeping resolutely local and focusing on non-ideological legislation of relevance to the district.  He adds that even though Brindisi lost, he clearly was able to win over thousands of Trump supporters in a district that has gone for Trump both times by wide margins.  Those split ballots may also keep Tenney vulnerable, but Rosenfeld says the other big unknown is redistricting. 

"If anything, the fact that the future is very uncertain for this district will free her up even more to act the way she'd like to act because it's hard to know how she'd need to position herself for a very uncertain political future."

Rosenfeld says as a member of the house minority, Tenney is likely to be shut out of meaningful lawmaking.  He says that will give her more time to engage in rhetorical criticism of the Biden administration and democrats.