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May 14, 2018

Albany Times Union

By: Jerry H. Goldfeder

With the resignation of Eric Schneiderman as New York's attorney general, we once again confront how undemocratic our replacement elections are.

We went through this twice in 1993, when then-Attorney General Robert Abrams left office to practice law and Comptroller Ned Regan went on to head Baruch College. In 2006 Comptroller Alan Hevesi was forced to leave office. According to the law since 1849, when either of these offices is vacant, the state Legislature, when in session, selects a temporary successor. Previously, governors appointed replacements, and, in fact, can still do so if the Legislature is not in session. In either case, the interim office holder serves until the end of the current term.

Although the law was a reform at the time, it is currently inconsistent with modern voting rights jurisprudence. Vacancies in most other offices require a special election. Instead, 213 members of the Assembly and Senate make the choice — obviously an anachronistic procedure. Yet the Legislature has not seen fit to permit voters to elect a successor when such a vacancy occurs. Bills have been introduced from time to time mandating a swift special election, but all have died on the vine.

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