All You Need To Know On November’s Elections

All You Need To Know On November’s Elections
Early voting mailer. Liena Zagare/Bklyner

New Yorkers on Saturday will, for the first time ever, get the chance to vote in the general election before election day, as a result of the state’s newly passed early voting law. Despite it being an off-year election, Brooklynites have plenty of things to vote on, from charter revisions to yet another race for Public Advocate.

Early voting starts on Saturday and will end on the following Sunday, two days before the general election. There are 18 early voting locations in Brooklyn, which can be found here. Early voting also has somewhat irregular hours: polls are open on Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., on Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and on Tuesday and Friday from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

You can read about what will be on your ballot below. You can find your polling place and who will be on your specific ballot here.

Ballot Questions

Voters will be presented with five yes-or-no questions on their ballot which were determined earlier this year by a Charter Revision Commission, empaneled by the City Council. Adopting the five proposals would amend the city’s charter and change how city government works, either in small or large ways. The text of the questions which will appear on the ballot can be found here, and more background on the questions can be found here, here, and here, all in various languages.

Question 1

Reforms the city’s election process, through the adoption of ranked-choice voting in primary and special elections for city offices. Under ranked-choice, instead of choosing just one candidate for each office, voters could rank up to five candidates in order of preference. If no candidate wins a majority of the vote, the last place candidate is eliminated, and the votes of those who ranked that candidate first are transferred to their second preference. This continues until a candidate wins a majority.

This would replace the current “first-past-the-post” system wherein any candidate who receives a simple plurality wins the race, even if they do not win a majority. Currently, in primaries for the three citywide offices and special elections for mayor, if no candidate receives 40 percent of the vote, an additional runoff election is held. This became a controversy in 2013 when the Public Advocate election advanced to a runoff, which cost substantially more money than the office’s entire annual budget.

Adopting ranked-choice would eliminate the need for these additional runoff elections, hence ranked-choice is also referred to as “instant-runoff voting.” Ranked-choice would nonetheless not apply to the general election, which would continue to use first-past-the-post. The city would conduct a “voter education campaign” on the particulars of ranked-choice before it goes into effect in 2021.

Question 1 also asks voters whether to extend the amount of time between an office vacancy and special election, to give the BOE more time to mail ballots to voters overseas and/or serving in the military. For mayoral special elections, the timeline would be extended from 60 days post-vacancy to 80 days, and for all other races, from 45 days to 80 days. And finally, question 1 asks voters to shorten the timeline of the city council redistricting process so that it would not conflict with petitioning schedules for primaries, which were recently rescheduled from September to June. The previous schedule for redistricting would now mean candidates would start petitioning before knowing new district boundaries, according to the Charter Revision Commission.

Question 2

Aims to empower the Civilian Complaint Review Board, the oversight board of the NYPD.

The proposal would allow the CCRB to directly investigate, hold hearings on, and recommend discipline for officers believed to have made false statements (sometimes known as “testilying”), instead of referring these cases back to the NYPD. The CCRB would be able to delegate subpoena power to its executive director, instead of requiring a full board vote. And the police commissioner would have to provide more detailed explanations for any deviations in discipline by the NYPD from what the CCRB recommended.

The proposal also expands the size of the CCRB. It adds two new appointees, one by the Public Advocate and one jointly by the Mayor and City Council who will serve as chair, to the current board of five mayoral appointees, five council nominees, and three nominees of the police commissioner. The council would also be empowered to directly appoint its chosen members, limiting the mayor’s veto power. And the proposal would “protect” the CCRB budget by allowing it to hire a staff equal to 0.65 percent of uniformed police officers.

Question 3

Deals with “ethics and governance.” The proposal would extend the ban on communications between former city employees and the agency they worked for from one year to two years. The proposal would replace two of the five mayoral appointees of the Conflicts of Interest Board (COIB) with appointees of the Public Advocate and Comptroller, and would restrict the amount of money COIB employees could contribute to campaigns for city office.

The proposal would also require the Corporation Counsel, the attorney who represents the city in legal proceedings and head the Law Department, to be appointed with advice and consent from the Council, as opposed to the current unchecked mayoral appointment. And finally, the proposal would codify the existence of the Mayor’s Office of Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprise.

Question 4

Deals with the city budget. Most notably, it would establish a “rainy day fund” to use as a cushion against future recessions or emergencies, when city revenues would decline. The use of a rainy day fund, where the city could save surplus revenues year-over-year, is currently prohibited by the charter and by state law that the city’s budget be balanced. The city has gotten around this by setting aside reserves in each budget, which must be spent by year’s end according to the Charter Revision Commission’s final report, as well as via the city’s pension fund.

The proposal would also set minimum required budgets for the Public Advocate and Borough President offices, require the Mayor to submit a revenue estimate to the City Council in April instead of June, and would require the Mayor to submit budget modifications to the Council within 30 days of submitting updates to the city financial plan.

Question 5

Deals with land use, specifically, amendments to the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP). The proposal would require the Department of City Planning to send detailed project summaries of ULURP applications to the community board, Borough President, and borough board where the project will be located before certifying the application’s completion and commencing the process, to post the summary online, and to allow community boards additional time to review certified ULURP applications before holding public hearings.

Public Advocate

Once again, voters will be choosing their next Public Advocate, despite having done so just eight months ago in a special election. Jumaane Williams won the February special election to serve out the rest of 2019; he now must run in the general to complete the term vacated by now-Attorney General Tish James, which ends in 2021.

Williams, a Democrat, is facing two general election challengers, City Council Member Joe Borelli and Sahana Software Foundation president Devin Balkind. Borelli is running on the Republican and Conservative lines, while Balkind has the Libertarian line. Williams and Borelli will face off in a debate on Tuesday night on NY1.

Williams and Borelli come from diametrically opposing political traditions and ideologies, but both agree on at least one thing: that this special election is unnecessary and wasteful. In interviews with NY1, Williams said that the election is a “waste of taxpayers’ money,” while Borelli said that he is supporting a bill eliminating the need for the very election he is running in.

Council District 45

Residents of Council District 45, encompassing parts of Flatbush, East Flatbush, Flatlands, Midwood, and Marine Park, will vote for the third time in six months to fill their Council seat, which was vacated by Williams when he ascended to the Public Advocate office. Farah Louis, a former aide to Williams, won the race to replace him in May as well as a primary in June to run on the Democratic line next month.

Louis will face off against Liberal candidate Anthony Beckford, an activist and perennial candidate for offices in the area, and Libertarian candidate David Fite, a 22-year-old financial consultant.

Judicial Elections

And of course, there are judicial elections. Two of them are one-person contests.

For Surrogate Court, Margarita Lopez Torres is running unopposed on the Democratic line after winning the June primary.

In the 6th City Civil Court district, encompassing Park Slope, Prospect Heights, Prospect Lefferts Gardens, Flatbush, and parts of Crown Heights and Midwood, Democrat Caroline Cohen has the ballot to herself.

For the Brooklyn Supreme Court, five candidates are vying for five seats, and all are across the Democratic, Republican, and Conservative. The candidates are incumbents Donald Kurtz and Esther Morgenstern, as well as appellate court judge Reinaldo Rivera and civil court judges Rosemarie Montalbano and Steven Mostofsky. None seem to have websites or additional information available.

In Kings County Civil Court, Democrat Bernadette Neckles is facing off against Republican Vincent Martusciello. Neither has a website.

Correction: This article has been updated to reflect that Rosemarie Montalbano is currently a judge of the civil court, not criminal court.