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Debate Heats Up over Open Primary Elections

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

A heated debate developed at Monday night's public hearing of the New York City Charter Revision Commission. The issue: Do open primary elections hurt or help the democratic process?

Citizens Union, a government watchdog, argued that an open primary election, in which voters would be able to cast ballots across party lines, would empower 1.5 million New York City registered voters.

Kyle Bragg, Vice President of Service Employees International Union Local 32BJ, testified against the so-called nonpartisan elections, arguing that they would unfairly favor self-financed candidates and special interest groups.

"Shifting to a nonpartisan system of elections would elevate the importance...of money for successful campaigning, heightened incentives for candidates who opt out of the campaign finance system, and increase the importance of independent expenditures," Bragg testified.

New York City Public Advocate Bill de Blasio added that nonpartisan elections only paid off for the biggest campaign spender.

"The proposed change to nonpartisan elections would add fuel to this already raging fire," de Blasio said. "As has been well-established, the lack of basic information provided to voters in the nonpartisan system would largely benefit wealthy candidates."

The Charter commission’s next hearing is scheduled for Wednesday at 6 p.m. at Bronx Community College.

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