Tonawanda News

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April 17, 2013

Cuomo touts election reform

Tonawanda News — Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday announced the first of several proposals designed to reduce corruption in state elections.

The proposals include creating an independent enforcement unit at the state Board of Elections to investigate election law violations and opening primaries to additional candidates by eliminating party bosses’ required approval and changing party enrollment deadlines to “expand voter choice and help reduce corruption,” according to a statement issued Tuesday.

“The reforms we are proposing today will help prevent corruption and strengthen our democracy by ensuring that candidates need not bankroll their way on to other parties’ ballots and giving voters the ability to change their party registration and vote in a primary in the same year,” Cuomo said.

The creation of the enforcement unit, if adopted, would include several features, Cuomo’s office said in the release:

• An election enforcement head would be selected by the governor and require Senate confirmation. The official would have sole authority over personnel decisions within the unit and would be required to hire based on merit rather than partisanship, according to Cuomo.

• The body would be granted subpoena authority to investigate and prosecute both civil and criminal cases involving violations of the election laws. Currently, such matters must be passed to the district attorney.

• The Board of Elections would not have the authority to direct the head of the new agency to cease an investigation, but could vote to direct him or her to begin such an investigation. Once the investigation has been completed and the counsel’s findings presented to the board, members could vote by majority rule not to bring a civil or criminal proceeding if the evidence demonstrated that a violation did not occur. However, if the board failed to take a vote within 90 days, or was deadlocked, the agency’s head could move ahead with prosecution.

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