COVID-19 lockdowns start to ease and the WFP enters high gear

Saturday kicks off the start of the nine-day early voting period across New York, which lasts through Nov. 1.
Saturday kicks off the start of the nine-day early voting period across New York, which lasts through Nov. 1.
CHOONGKY/Shutterstock
Saturday kicks off the start of the nine-day early voting period across New York, which lasts through Nov. 1.

COVID-19 lockdowns start to ease and the WFP enters high gear

Rounding up the week’s political news
October 23, 2020

Happy early voting! Saturday kicks off the start of the nine-day early voting period across New York, which lasts through Nov. 1, the first time early voting is available in the state for a presidential general election. It’s one of three ways people can vote this year, with the other two being absentee ballots and voting in person on Election Day. Thanks to early voting, people have an option to safely cast their votes in person on a day perhaps more convenient than Election Day, while hopefully avoiding long lines, crowds and the potential uncertainty of the postal service. Early voting sites and their hours of operation are listed on the websites of local boards of elections, and outside of New York City, voters can choose to vote at whichever polling place is most convenient. For city voters, check your assigned early voting site here.

COVID-19 lockdowns begin to ease

About two weeks after announcing new lockdowns in parts of New York City experiencing spikes in coronavirus cases, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that some of the restrictions would be relaxed. However, the neighborhoods at the heart of the outbreaks would continue to be subject to the strictest public health requirements. During his announcement, Cuomo unveiled a new four-tiered system, each with its own benchmarks for infection rates, that would determine the levels for a lockdown. The changes allowed thousands of students to head back to school in areas where classrooms had been temporarily shuttered, including all previously closed schools in Queens and many in Brooklyn. Meanwhile, Cuomo also announced that he would not add New York’s neighbors – New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania – to the travel quarantine list, even though each state had hit an infection rate that should trigger such restrictions. The governor said that the amount of interstate travel, especially with Connecticut and New Jersey, would make the quarantine requirement too hard to enforce. Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio also sparred over coronavirus responses again, this time relating to a vaccine distribution plan. Cuomo unveiled his five-phase plan that prioritizes front-line health care workers, along with those in nursing homes, while de Blasio announced a two-phase plan that prioritizes front-line and essential workers, and people in vulnerable groups. The governor indirectly chastised the mayor, saying that the city doesn’t have the authority to make COVID-19 policy or implement its own vaccine strategies.

WFP enters high gear

As the Election Day draws nearer, the Working Families Party has revved up its campaign to get New York voters to cast their ballots for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris on the WFP line. The party faces new, tougher requirements to keep its ballot line this year – the party must receive either 130,000 votes or 2% of the vote for president, whichever is higher. They’ll have to meet that requirement every two years in each presidential and gubernatorial race. Previously, third parties needed only 50,000 votes every four years. The WFP recently launched an $800,000 ad buy in order to encourage people to vote WFP, including mailers featuring Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren. Lawmakers and candidates from across the state have also been encouraging their constituents to vote for president on the WFP line.

21 in ’21 endorsements announced

Nearly four years after it was first founded, the 21 in ’21 initiative has rolled out its endorsements for the 2021 New York City Council races as it seeks to get 21 women elected to the council. Right now, there are only 12 women in the 51-seat legislative body, a decrease from the 18 that were serving in 2011. Six of those women currently in the council are leaving next year due to term limits. With 35 open council races, the group endorsed 33 women as their first-choice candidates as well as many others as second and third choices, a nod to the ranked-choice voting system soon to be implemented in New York City. It will allow voters to rank up to five candidates in municipal races.

NYC mayoral race grows larger

The already crowded field of New York City mayoral hopefuls has gotten even bigger. Two more people announced their bids for mayor, on the heels of the third who announced late in the previous week. New York City Council Member Carlos Menchaca of Brooklyn confirmed his intent to run as a progressive. Military veteran Zach Iscol, who helped lead the coronavirus response efforts at the Javits Center temporary hospital, also announced his candidacy. And earlier, investment banker, Wall Street giant and Democratic donor Ray McGuire made his run official as well.

Rebecca C. Lewis
is a staff reporter at City & State.
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