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State’s political decay evident on primary day

WASHINGTON – In a touching postscript to last Tuesday’s presidential primaries in New York, The Buffalo News published some anxious reflections on politics voiced by high school students studying in Erie County.

Written by NeXt correspondent Allison Rapp of Kenmore West High School, the report ended with her observation that the Nov. 8 presidential election is not “solely for adults” but for young people, as well.

Frankly, the report could have noted that this election – especially in New York – is entirely about her generation, which is being grievously ill-served by many of those running the political parties, those in office and those seeking election.

The superficial results were that Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton and Republican developer Donald Trump scored big in their respective primaries. Less noticed was data that showed that democracy in New York, if not dead, is systematically dying.

Both “winners” have extremely high negatives. Yet because of New York’s degenerate election laws, each could “win” with far less than half the share of affiliated voters showing up.

According to unofficial numbers from Erie County, Clinton defeated Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont with only 37.7 percent of all Democrats casting ballots. This was down from 39.3 in 2008. On the other side, 40.6 percent of Republicans voted – up from 25 percent in 2008.

Statewide the results were sadly comparable, although a questionable BillMoyers.com blog said the turnout was 19.7 percent in New York City. An estimated 120,000 were stripped from the rolls for various reasons in Kings County, in the city.

Aside from this blizzard of numbers, the big story is that Clinton and Trump won because their backers showed up, and supporters of their challengers instead went for coffee or a brew or stayed home.

Allison, it’s arguable by now that the political class in New York State – the lobbyists, the incumbents and the consultants – don’t want you to vote. Not really; not until you glue yourself, permanently, onto some cause, or say, a public employee labor union.

Some of the state’s repressive voting laws are rooted in the State Constitution, passed in 1938. Others, almost as old, encourage her to affiliate with a political party, and stay there. To repeat, 3 million voters could not vote in the primary Tuesday unless they affiliated as Republicans or Democrats six months ago.

Allison, your state is among less than a dozen that do not allow early voting. You see, long lines at the polling place discourage a lot of busybodies from casting a vote.

Such restrictions date from an era when political parties meant something to the average would-be voter, something more than an emotional attachment to the Buffalo Bills. But it is different since 2010 when the U.S. Supreme Court allowed powerful interests, including foreign-controlled companies, to manipulate local, state and federal elections through millions in campaign gifts.

Some politicians say they want to improve things. Assemblyman Tim Kennedy, D-Buffalo, wants to move the affiliation date forward to just 25 days ahead of Election Day. Gov. Andrew Cuomo wants a limited number of early voting places. Some reformers want to have same-day registration. Attorney General Eric Schneiderman approved a request for online registration in Suffolk County – leaving 61 counties to go.

So they’re in no hurry for reform in Albany, even though federal prosecutor Preet Bharara of New York has pulled some Legislature leaders off their pedestals. They can be replaced. The frozen system that Albany runs is at the root of the state’s political decadence. It can only get worse, Allison, until you and your contemporaries march up State Street with pitchforks.

email: dturner@buffnews.com