State Senator George Maziarz and Assemblyman Steve Hawley (R, I, C – Batavia) called on the Governor to hold open elections when filling vacant high-level elected offices. With the Governor, one of the state’s two United States Senators, Comptroller and now the Lieutenant Governor, all appointed or filled without public input, the legislators are concerned at the lack of “participatory government.”
“One of the greatest freedoms our nation has, and one of the greatest actions our citizenry has is a voice in choosing who represents them. For the last three years, however, high-level state and federal leaders from our state have been ‘specially’ appointed rather than elected into office. This severely undermines the public’s ability to exercise their right to vote and their voice in government, and further diminishes an already damaged sense of trust in government,” said Hawley, who is the original author of legislation that would address this issue. “Had this bill to amend the constitution of our state been addressed and enacted after I first introduced it in March 2008, some of this year’s dysfunction could have been avoided and the people would have been able to elect their own Comptroller, Governor and Lieutenant Governor.”
Senator Maziarz, who introduced the bill in the Senate, stated, “Elections should determine who our state leaders are, not appointments. We are a democracy and that means that power ultimately rests with the people. That power is best exercised in the voting booth. So, in my view, when we have to fill a vacancy in a major office, the best thing to do is empower the people and let them decide.”
Bills S.6127/A.1140 and S.6126/A.1141 would provide a process of open, public election for filling high-level state positions, such as Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Comptroller and Attorney General. Specifically, the legislation would change current law by automatically calling for an open election for any vacated top elected offices in the next scheduled general election. This would prevent appointments for 3- or 4-year terms without the public having had the opportunity to voice their opinion. The bill would go into effect after it is passed by both houses in two consecutive legislative sessions.
By initially filling vacancies through appointment until the next general election, the bills would not burden the state with the additional cost of holding a special election. Under current law, only one person, Governor Paterson, who was appointed himself, has the power to name his successor.
While this initiative gained bi-partisan support in the State Legislature, as well as popular support among New Yorkers, the bills were held in the Assembly Judiciary Committee and have not been addressed in the Senate. Both legislators are again circulating the legislation to their colleagues in the Assembly and Senate for their support and sponsorship.