Between state lawmakers who were elected to new local positions, resigned in disgrace or stepped down for the private sector, there are now 11 vacancies in the state Legislature, with nine in the Assembly alone.
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan, says Gov. Andrew Cuomo should call special elections to fill the empty seats before Election Day in November.
“We have many important issues to consider and a strong democracy demands that New York conduct special elections as soon as possible in order to fill these seats,” Silver said in a statement.
Silver was less aggressive in his call for special elections when he spoke to reporters earlier in the week, expressing concern about whether lawmakers can be effective if they miss the bulk of the state budget process. The state constitution allows Cuomo to call a special election to fill legislative vacancies, but they have to be held at least 70 days after the governor issues the call.
Cuomo is slated to unveil his budget proposal next week, with a spending plan due March 31.
Silver noted in his statement that more than 1 million people in New York are without representation in one house of the state Legislature, including “many in under-served communities that desperately need a strong voice.”
“I believe it is important that special elections be conducted in order to fill the vacancies in the State Legislature, as I have previously stated,” Silver said. “State law mandates that a special election cannot be held until 70 days at the earliest after one is called. However, it is important to note that members of the Assembly and Senate work hard throughout the year serving their constituents both in their communities and in Albany during session.”
Cuomo has given no indication that he is going to call an election to fill the seats. Critics of special elections point to their cost.