The Slatest

Your Voting Line Might Be Too Long for the Same Reason You Can’t Afford a Home

Cuomo sits sternly at a desk with American and state flags behind him.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo in New York City on Sept. 14.
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Voting lines are very long in New York City today, among other places. In New York, computer scanners are breaking (two of the four were broken at my polling site), causing delays. Sites are crowded in the first place because everyone has to show in-person on Election Day because the state doesn’t have early voting.

Why don’t we have early voting? And why is everything else about the state’s voting process, like party registration, and the fact that there are actually multiple primaries held on different days, a pain in the ass as well? The Atlantic explained concisely in September:

Politicians in Albany seeking to protect their incumbency have little motivation to change these outmoded rules. 

That’s particularly true of elected officials in New York City, which is dominated by the Democratic Party. Democrats win almost every general election, so the real action is in the primaries, which means incumbents and the broader party machine have an incentive to keep people from voting in primaries so they can sail through unchallenged.

It’s a corrupt system, and it’s heavily financed by a group with a strong interest in maintaining the status quo: landlords and real estate developers. As the New York Times put it earlier this year:

State lawmakers flush with the industry’s donations have been gutting New York City’s rent regulations for decades, putting hundreds of thousands of rent-stabilized apartments on the open market, driving up housing costs and forcing poor and middle-class New Yorkers out of their homes.

The New York Review of Books wrote specifically in 2017 about how speculative luxury development contributes to the crisis. (In theory, development—building more apartments—should make it cheaper to live in New York City. In practice the city’s real estate companies are just as often focused on renovating existing buildings and making them more expensive to live in.) Many apartments also go unused, constricting supply, because their owners purchased them as investments but don’t actually live in them.

Meanwhile, ProPublica noted in a 2016 investigation that “Gov. Andrew Cuomo was by far the largest recipient of donations from the taxpayer-subsidized developers.” Cuomo will be re-elected easily on Tuesday. Thus does New York City—which, by the numbers, should ostensibly be the capital of progressive politics in the U.S.—perpetuate policies that make life here a financially impossible proposition for anyone except the wealthiest individuals and families.

Which has implications outside New York, of course. Those being: Simply repudiating Donald Trump and repudiating angry-white-idiot fascism are only the start of making the country a functioning democracy that’s sustainable for regular people. In my opinion. And I vote!