Unite NY has shifted gears. The organization, which works to bring moderate New Yorkers together, has decided to keep building partnerships and membership with a focus on research, education and advocacy.
Unite NY will no longer endorse candidates but instead grow support for specific reforms that create a more fair, open, and representative democracy, officials say. The focus on issues will enable Unite NY to directly drive change and encourage investments in strengthening democracy.
Low turnout in the 2022 election, when more than 2 million independent voters stayed home, was a turning point for Unite NY.
“We will articulate a compelling message that addresses voters’ interests and create a new path to engage both individuals and organizations who are ready to fight for reform,” says Martin Babinec, Unite NY founder. “We are excited about this transformation and aim to bring together people who are tired of ‘politics as usual’ and arm them with the data and pathways needed to let our collective voice be heard.”
Unite NY will shift to advocacy in five areas:
■ More candidates—seeking changes to make it easier for candidates to get on the ballot.
■ More choices—enacting term limits statewide.
■ More democracy—enabling initiative and referendum.
■ Empowering voters—expanding use of ranked choice voting.
■ More voices—opening the state’s primaries to independent voters.
The new direction includes the continuation of Unite NY’s Voter Empowerment Index. It will offer new independent polling this year.
The Rochester Beacon posed a few questions to Timothy Dunn, Unite NY’s executive director. An edited version of his responses are below.
ROCHESTER BEACON: What is the history of Unite NY and why did it initially form?
TIMOTHY DUNN: Unite NY evolved from the former Upstate Jobs Party in early 2021. We found that our politics, state, and nation were so bitterly divided that a more expansive reform effort needed to be undertaken to fundamentally change this broken system. The problems we face in NY are the same every four years; no matter who is elected, they remain. We believe we need to fundamentally reform the system if anything is to change.
ROCHESTER BEACON: Why did you decide to shift Unite NY’s approach and goals?
DUNN: Following the 2022 elections, we saw really depressing turnout. Despite both major parties having primaries for governor, only about 15 percent of the enrolled members of each party participated. That resulted in two candidates few were excited about. Even worse, because the ballot access thresholds were tripled in 2020, there were no independent candidates on the ballot for only the second time in state history. We came to the conclusion that backing candidates tied us directly to the broken two-party system we want to change. So, this year, we’ve shifted gears to focus on issues, not candidates.
ROCHESTER BEACON: How does New York compare to other states in terms of its laws that impact voter choices and independent voices in politics?
DUNN: While many would try to tell you New York is a progressive state, that is very far from the truth. New York is one of the hardest states in the nation to get on the ballot. We’re one of only nine states with a completely closed primary process. New York is one of only 13 states with no term limits on the office of governor. About half of the U.S. states have the ability for voters to petition an issue onto the ballot—New York is not one. We are an absolutely regressive state when it comes to independent and free thinking in politics.
ROCHESTER BEACON: How can people in Rochester and across the state get involved with your group’s efforts?
DUNN: We have a few great local leaders on our team and have begun outreach to recruit new members. To learn more about becoming a member or about our issues, you can visit www.UniteNY.org or follow us on social media. We’re beginning a series of informal social events this week we’ve dubbed “Drinks and Democracy.” We’re hosting one at Salena’s on Thursday, March 23 at 6 p.m., with some complimentary appetizers and a cash bar. Come out and meet the team!
Smriti Jacob is Rochester Beacon managing editor. The Beacon welcomes comments and letters from readers who adhere to our comment policy including use of their full, real name. Submissions to the Letters page should be sent to [email protected].
One the reasons there is low voter turnout is bias reporting by the media which provides cover for the left. Therefore, the public is misinformed with disinformation and misinformation. As an example, there was voter fraud and irregularities in the 2020 election. Yet the Associated Press, USATODAY, New York Times. Washington Post, CBS, NBC, ABC, CNN, NPR etc has consistently reported that voter fraud and irregularities was baseless, without evidence, false, etc. I didn’t see any coverage of the 25+ hours of legislative hearings in the battle ground states in November and December 2020 which produced hundreds of witnesses and affidavits attesting to many different types of election fraud and irregularities. I watched many of these hearings; some of which were on Cspan. Also, I always thought that NYS didn’t have any significant election irregularities because of high end election integrity protection and the fact that statewide enrollment are comfortably in favor of Democrats. However, reportedly a non partisan group has uncovered substantial election irregularities in NYS during the 2020 election. Check out auditny.com with the facts. I haven’t seen any coverage of this in the mainstream media. In summary, that’s why there is such voter malaise.
To get more people to vote, you need to do more civics education (especially with adults) and avoid things like fusion voting, ranked choice voting and making it so easy to get on the ballot that it gets too long for people to comprehend. Candidates to office should have to meet a threshold to get on the ballot to prove their interest and support. Fusion voting confuses many voters. I hate to think what ranked choice voting would do. I fear many would simply give up and never vote again.
– Election Inspector for the past 10 years.
It’s amusing to see term limits, which deny people the opportunity to vote for the candidate of their choice, proposed as a measure to provide voters with “more choices”. The reality is that term limits are simply an anti-democracy measure promoted by those who believe that the concept of Majority Rules has been taken too far and that the electorate can no longer be trusted with an unrestricted franchise because they have the bad habit of daring to vote for incumbents. So that bad habit must be corrected by denying the electorate the right to vote for the candidates of their choice by prohibiting those candidates from being elected to an office more than X times.
And what is the justification for this, “we have to destroy representative democracy in order to save it” movement based on? The totally unsubstantiated claim that term limits will magically produce better/more honest/smarter, etc. candidates for office. Candidates who will allegedly conjure up fresh, new ideas for bringing the Millennium to our society.
Let’s see. We’ve had term limits on the presidency since 1951. Has anyone seen a marked improvement in the quality of presidents since that date? At least 15 states and thousands of local communities have term limits on various offices. Have their residents been polled to see of they’ve experienced a new political Golden Age in their state/city/town governments?
But hey, if we must drink the term limit Kool-aid, let’s go all the way and bring maximum democracy to the fore. Pass a state constitutional amendment limiting all state elected offices to one year terms and imposing a one term limit on such offices. That way every Election Day will give the voters the ability to wipe the slate clean and elect an entirely new state government based on fresh new ideas!
Vox terminorum, Vox populi.
Lets face it, the two parties are having way to much “fun” with their opposition to one anther. Around election time they will come out and “harvest” the vote. Once the vote is in it’s right back to the same agenda, which is bashing each other independent of constituency expectations. They even change their mind about the issues discussed. The politician speaks the language (what the voter wants to hear) of the voter and then once elected they drift off to Party politics as usual. Lies are innate to the political candidate. They can lie about their qualifications and…..when caught after the election, serve anyway. Trust is absent, period. While the third party is a good idea, it will split one party and strengthen the other. Accountability is also absent. I think this nation as founded has run its course. Consider that about 80% of the population below age 30 is attracted to socialism. You can deny it will rear its ugly head, but the demonstrating, the burning, the looting has been allowed to go on by those hell bent on shredding the Constitution. That’s a fact.