One Reason The Republicans Control The State Senate

On Wednesday, the NY State Senate will convene with a 32-30 majority. Numerous explanations have been given and plenty of people have been blamed for this change but one possible reason has not been discussed.


I think if it wasn’t for the new voting machines, the Senate would be in a 31-31 tie.


I do not believe there was a conspiracy that rigged the machines to elect Republicans and I doubt that any machine errors caused any close Republican wins (though I agree with Marty Connor and other election lawyers that the legislature should create clear rules for recounts).


The reason the new machines helped the Republicans is because they make casting write-in votes much easier (Gerry O’Brien, a fellow consultant is the first person I know of who pointed this out).


Casting a write-in vote on the old lever machines was extremely difficult and very few candidates even tried, let alone won elections as write-ins. I was involved in two unsuccessful write-in campaigns myself where we tried to explain to voters how to do it.


But now voters start the voting process with a pen or pencil in their hands, so writing in a candidate’s names is as easy as writing anything on a piece of paper.


Which brings me to the 40th State Senate District.


The Democrats thought they had a great chance to pick up this Republican Senate seat in Dutchess, Putnam & Westchester.


The long-time incumbent, Vincent Leibell was retiring in order to become Putnam County Executive, where it is now assumed, he could steal more money than he did as a Senator.


The Democrats had an attractive candidate in Westchester County Legislature Mike Kaplowitz, who received just under 45% of the vote against Leibell in 2006.


The Republicans were seriously split, with most of the Party leadership supporting Mary Beth Murphy, the Somers Town Supervisor. The other Republican candidate was Assemblyman Greg Ball.


Ball had numerous Republican enemies. He was elected to the Assembly by beating a long-time 2nd generation Republican Assemblyman in a Primary and then proceeded to back other insurgent Republicans in his district and fought often with Senator Leibell.


And most importantly, there was a strong possibility that Kaplowitz would be running against both opponents in November.


The Conservative Party backed Murphy over Ball. And since the Conservatives did not allow Ball a place on the Primary ballot to oppose Murphy, it meant that if Ball succeeded for the 3rd Primary in a row in beating the GOP establishment, the General Election would have Kaplowitz on the Democratic & Independence lines, Ball on The Republican line & Murphy on the Conservative line.


Kaplowitz could have won with less than a majority.


But Ball’s campaign knew this did not accept the loss of the Conservative line.


Ball ran a write-in campaign to try to take over the Conservative line. And with his extremely conservative record and thanks to the new machines, he won the Primary easily. In fact, running as a write-in Ball beat Murphy by a bigger margin, 66% to 34%, in the Conservative Primary than he did in the Republican Primary, 61% to 39%.


Ball received 698 write-in votes. I don’t believe he would have received half that many on the old lever machines and he might not have even tried the difficult and expansive write-in campaign (Murphy outspent Ball by over $100,000).


I think it’s pretty clear that Ball needed those Conservative votes in November.


Kaplowitz received more votes on the Democratic line than Ball did on the Republican line. Adding in the 4,979 votes he got on the Independence line gave Kaplowitz 48,536 votes, more than enough to beat the 42,330 votes Ball got as a Republican. But the 8,388 additional votes on the Conservative line gave Ball the win. If Murphy was the Conservative candidate and received only 2,183 votes, Kaplowitz would have won by 1 vote.


And Lt. Governor Duffy would be breaking a lot of 31-31 tie votes.