Many choices awaiting voters
Local ballots include host of contested races
CAPITAL REGION Whether you knew a year ago who you will vote for or will toss a coin once you have ballot in hand, the chance to make your voice heard comes Tuesday.
On Election Day, millions of voters across the nation will be deciding to either return the 44th president to office or elect the 45th. But the choice between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney is far from the only one for the 637.000 registered voters in the Capital Region. They will also be voting for a U.S. senator and for members of Congress. State senators and assemblymen are also on the ballot — even candidates for state Supreme Court.
Often, there are entrenched incumbents. But two local state Senate districts — the 43rd and 46th — don’t have incumbents campaigning. The same is true in several Assembly districts.
There are a handful of municipal voter decisions, too, including a referendum in Saratoga Springs on whether to change the city’s form of government. Montgomery County voters face a similar decision when they vote on whether to adopt a county charter. There will also be a city council race in Schenectady.
The hundreds of polling places across the region will all be open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.
As was the case last year, everyone will be voting on paper ballots that will then be counted by optical scanning machines. This is the second general election for the new system, but voter turnout will likely be far higher than last year, when only local offices were at stake.
Voters need to be aware that propositions, like the Montgomery County and Saratoga Springs charter questions, will appear on the back of the paper ballot.
This will also be the first general election since legislative districts were redrawn earlier this year to comply with the 2010 federal census. That means many voters will see unfamiliar names on their ballot, even if there’s an incumbent seeking re-election.
New York state lost two Congressional seats under the census — it now has 27 — and the state Legislature accepted the new congressional district lines recommended by a U.S. District Court judge. Saratoga County, represented in recent years by U.S. Rep. Chris Gibson, is now split between the 20th and 21st Congressional Districts, while Gibson’s new 19th district is shifted generally south of the Capital Region’s three cities.
The state Assembly and Senate lines were redrawn by the state Legislature, often with an eye toward giving the party in power an advantage.
Elections officials are prepared for some voter confusion because of the redistricting.
“The first year is always the most confusing,” said William Fruci, Saratoga County’s Democratic elections commissioner.
Fruci said sample ballots, broken down by town and even election district, are available on the county Board of Elections website, for voters to familiarize themselves with the candidate names.
Here are some expected election highlights:
• The marquee matchup remains Obama-Romney. Polls give Obama a wide lead in New York state, and neither candidate has devoted time to campaigning here, assuming that Obama will take the state’s 29 electoral college votes. But major-party candidates aren’t the only choices voters can make for president. Dr. Jill Stein of the Green Party, Peta Lindsay of the Socialism and Liberation Party, Libertarian Gary Johnson and Constitution Party candidate Virgil Goode are also on the New York ballot.
• For the U.S. Senate, Kirsten E. Gillibrand — who grew up in Albany and represented part of the Capital Region in the U.S. House of Representatives for two years — is running for re-election. She is opposed by Republican-Conservative Wendy Long, with Green, Libertarian and Common Sense party candidates are also in the mix.
• The 19th Congressional District race pits Gibson, a Kinderhook Republican also endorsed by Conservatives, against Democrat Julian Schreibman of Kingston. Redistricting shifted Gibson’s district further into the lower Hudson Valley, but it includes Schoharie County and the western half of Montgomery County.
• In the 20th District, Democrat Paul Tonko of Amsterdam is opposed by Robert Dieterich of Glenville, a Republican-Conservative. The reconfigured district includes southern Saratoga County, as well as Albany, Schenectady, and eastern Montgomery counties.
• The 21st District race is between incumbent Democrat Bill Owens of Plattsburgh and Matthew A. Doheny of Watertown, a Republican-Conservative. The district now represents the entire North Country, stretching from central Saratoga County and all of Fulton County north to the St. Lawrence River and the Canadian border.
Among the five state Senate races in the region, a couple bear watching.
• The 43rd District’s residents will be picking a new senator. Republican incumbent Roy McDonald was defeated by Kathy Marchione in a September primary in which McDonald’s 2011 vote in favor of gay marriage was a major factor. McDonald remains on the ballot as the Independence candidate, but is not campaigning. Claverack town Supervisor Robin Andrews is the Democrat’s candidate.
• The 46th District was created by Senate Republicans who wanted to add a 63rd seat to the chamber during redistricting. It includes Montgomery County, western Schenectady and Albany counties, Greene County and part of Ulster County. George A. Amedore Jr. of Rotterdam, now a Republican-Conservative assemblyman who also has the backing of the Independence Party, is running for the new seat, opposed by Democrat, Working Families and Green candidate Cecilia F. Tlaczyk of Rotterdam.
• Veteran incumbent senators running for re-election with at least token opposition include Hugh T. Farley of Niskayuna, Neil D. Breslin of Albany and James Seward of Milford.
In the state Assembly, there’s a changing of the guard among the Albany-area members this year, with three retirements and competition for their seats.
• In the 109th District, Democrat Patricia Fahy, Republican Theodore Danz and Conservative Joseph Sullivan want the Albany seat being given up by Jack McEneny.
• In the 110th District, Republican-Conservative Jennifer Whalen is facing Democrat Phil Steck for the seat Bob Reilly is surrendering.
• In the 111th district, Democrat Angelo Santabarbara and Republican Thomas Quakenbush are running for the Assembly seat Amedore will be giving up.
• Cohoes Mayor John McDonald is the Democratic candidate to replace the retiring Ron Canestrari in the 108th district, with Libertarian James Campbell also on the ballot
• In the North Country’s 114th district, Republican Dan Stec and Democrat Dennis Tarantino are running to replace Teresa Sayward, who is retiring.
• In the 107th District, which mostly includes Rensselaer County, Assemblyman Steve McLaughlin, R-Melrose, is facing a challenge from Democrat Cheryl Roberts.
• And in the 118th District, longtime Republican Assemblyman Marc Butler faces a challenge from Democratic former Herkimer County legislator Joseph Chilelli.
Both the Third and Fourth Judicial Districts have multiple candidates running for 14-year state Supreme Court judgeships.
One of the most high-profile local propositions is the ballot question in Saratoga Springs, where city voters are being asked if they want to trade the current elected commissioner form of government for a city manager-city council form of government.
In Montgomery County, voters are being asked if they want to replace the 15-member Board of Supervisors with an elected executive and nine-member county legislature.
In Mechanicville, voters are being asked whether they want to eliminate the two-term term limits for mayor and city commissioners. The result is non-binding.
Those questions will appear on the back of the ballot, as will funding propositions in a few communities. Poll workers will be reminding voters to flip the ballot over before they finish voting.