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The nursing home scandal is yet another NY ethics disaster

By now we can comfortably say that the new decade has not started out the way that many of us had hoped. Instead of calling out the shady deals and voter suppression efforts that usually take place during an election year, democracy warriors must now ensure that New York’s handling of the COVID crisis does not open the door for even more corruption. Unfortunately, the New York state government seems intent on giving us reasons to stay vigilant.

During a news conference on April 23rd, Cuomo announced that the Department of Health will team up with Attorney General Letitia James to investigate how at least 5,000 New Yorkers have died from the coronavirus inside of nursing homes. But as Gothamist points out, there may be a problem with the investigation: The state is essentially investigating itself. It’s the Department of Health that regulates nursing homes, and it’s the Department of Health conducting an investigation into how nursing homes were handled during the crisis (the DOH is reportedly not yet a target in the investigation, and it’s unclear whether or Cuomo’s actions will be either).

This is familiar territory for New York – the Inspector General, a supposedly independent official who once worked for Cuomo, was tasked with investigating an alleged leak of confidential information to the Governor last year. Cynics will tell you that the more things change, the more they stay the same – but that’s only true as long as we let it be.

In other news…

  • Democratic presidential candidates aren’t the only ones back on the ballot – the Queens Daily Eagle reports that the courts have ordered Assembly candidate Mary Jobaida and Democratic District Leader candidate Moumita Ahmed to be put back on the ballot after an earlier removal by the Board of Elections. The BOE’s reasoning was that the two candidates of Bangladeshi descent campaigned using their personal and professional names rather than their legal names. But Livote wrote that the law should be used to prevent a candidate from using nicknames like “Grandpa,” not block a candidate who “has sufficiently established that she held herself out both professionally and personally” with “no intent … to mislead signatories.” The Queens BOE is notorious for its oppressive interpretation of election law, as seen during the county’s district attorney election last year.
  • The New York City Campaign Finance Board recently released its latest Voter Analysis Report, giving us insight into the voting habits of NYC residents over the past decade. Gotham Gazette dug in and found some startling results – for example, the report shows that between 2008 and 2018, a full 21% of registered NYC voters didn’t cast a single ballot. Meanwhile, 3% of registered voters let their voices be heard in every single election over the decade. The report gives evidence to the theory that New York City doesn’t have a voter registration problem as much as it has a “registered voters not voting” problem. So how can the city improve? One proposal is that it could do more to reach out to immigrant communities, since the study found that naturalized citizens are most likely to skip out on elections. 
  • Will New York hold a Democratic presidential primary, or won’t it?The New York Board of Elections canceled the June 23rd primaries in April citing concerns that COVID-19 could spread if polls are opened (they also noted that the results would not change the primary’s outcome). Former presidential candidate Andrew Yang filed a lawsuit against that decision, claiming that the BOE was denying New Yorkers a chance to assign delegates to a candidate and influence the Democratic party platform. A federal judge agreed with Yang and ordered the BOE to reinstate the primaries. As of this writing, it appears that New York will move forward with the primary.

Upcoming events and actions:

  • Did you know that NYC has had an online voter registration portal ready to go for nearly a year, but the portal can’t be launched because of an obscure state law? Did you know that voter registration rates have also plummeted due to the COVID-19 crisis, which may leave hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers unable to vote in June and November? RepresentUs NYC is starting a campaign to change the state law to allow for online voter registration in NYC. If you’re interested in becoming involved, please reach out to Tom at

Thank you for reading! If you’re interested in getting involved locally:

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