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Author: Seamus Campbell

Young Democrats in the News: Tirade about town’s marijuana policy goes viral on TikTok

The Albany Times Union reports on video of Orange County Young Democrats President Zachary Constantine speaking at a Goshen Town Board meeting about their plans to ban the sale of cannabis going viral on TikTok.

@zacharyconstantine

Local board meetings in Upstate NY are fun. You should go sometime. ##NY ##NewYork ##legalizeit ##speakup ##government ##politics

♬ original sound – Zak

Young Democrats in the News: NYSYD President Jovan Richards on MetroFocus

Check out NYSYD President Jovan Richards on PBS’s MetroFocus discussing local politics with The City‘s Alyssa Katz and former NYC Board of Elections President JC Polanco.

NYSYD Denounces Sen. Borrello’s Anti-Disabled Comments Senator Says Automatic Voter Registration Will Expand Voting Rights for Persons Who Lack the Cognitive Skills to Understand the Electoral Process

The New York State Young Democrats (NYSYD) condemn the anti-disabled and ableist remarks made by newly-elected State Senator George Borrello (R-57) on the first full day of the 2020 legislative session, Thursday, January 9, 2020, during a floor debate regarding a bill to enact automatic voter registration (AVR) when he said that the bill would enfranchise people with cognitive disabilities who, he claims, lack the requisite skills to understand how to vote.

The bill, if enacted, will automatically register people to vote after they fill-out paperwork with certain New York State government agencies – most notably the Department of Motor Vehicles. Currently, when a person goes to a DMV office to get a license, permit, or other state identification, they can check a box to indicate that they wish to have their information forwarded to the New York State Board of Elections (BOE) so that they will be added to the voter rolls. The AVR bill would do the opposite: the person would have to check a box to actively opt-out of their information being sent to the BOE. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, the states that have enacted AVR have seen the rates of voter registration rise to be as much as 94%. Furthermore, The Nation reports that as a result of its AVR law, Oregon saw a 4% increase in voter turnout from 2012 to 2016.

While explaining his plans to vote against the AVR bill Sen. Borrello finished his remarks by saying:

This [bill] is [also] about registering people who have come into government to collect benefits, [and] to, perhaps, address mental health issues they may have. Those are the folks who are automatically be registered – people who may not even understand the impact of voting. It’s about influencing people who, otherwise, should not understand and will not understand. I find that really abhorrent. So, I will be voting ‘no’ on this.

“It is quite a feat to show yourself to be ableist on your first day at a new job,” said NYSYD and Young Democrats of America Disability Issues Caucus Chair Seamus Campbell. “Senator Borrello literally said people with mental illness and cognitive disabilities are too dumb or unbalanced to vote. He should be ashamed of himself. Borrello thinks that people with disabilities lack the ability to learn about the role and importance of democracy and how to do the necessary research about the issues and candidates on the ballot. As a person who has dealt with clinical depression for his entire adult life, I am both shocked and disgusted that to learn that he honestly thinks that my condition is in any way a barrier to being an informed citizen and active voter. The fact that I have not missed a single election – primary, general, run-off, or special – in over 5 years should be proof that his beliefs are just plain wrong.”

Under New York State Law, any United States citizen, a resident of New York State for at least 30 days, and over the age of 18, and is not currently serving time for a felony conviction can register to vote. Furthermore, the only persons empowered to remove a person’s voting rights due to mental capacity is a judge.

Said Paolo Cremidis, NYSYD Rural Caucus Chair, “George Borrello is peddling fear for the sake of peddling fear. I am troubled by the fact that he is targeting folks to exclude via automatic voter registration. The issue of mental health is not something that we can joke about. He needs to apologize for his comments to his constituents and to our broader Upstate New York community. Making comments like these do not do anything to help represent Upstate.”

“It’s disappointing to see our representation in Albany speaking out against legislation that will strengthen democracy in New York State,” said Frank Besse, Chautauqua County Young Democrats President. “Not only does Mr. Borrello position himself in opposition to empowering the people of our state he does so in a way that incites baseless fears and offends common decency.”

“It makes total sense that Senator Borrello would say this in 2020 of all years,” said NYSYD President Patrick Jordan. “The GOP in New York knows that with Trump on the top of the ballot this year, they are vulnerable because there will be an even bigger surge in voter turnout than we saw in 2018. So, their only recourse to save themselves electorally is to add more barriers so that people cannot or will not go to the polls in November. The New York State Young Democrats just found yet another reason to mobilize this year against Republicans up and down the ballot and we have added a new candidate we’re targetting: George Borrello.”

The New York State Young Democrats call on Senator George Borrello to apologize immediately for his statements. NYSYD plans to organize and mobilize its members so that 2020 will be the only year Borrello spends in Albany.

To view Senator George Borrello’s floor remarks in their entirety, please visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UuxWppCmy30.

In The News: Website standards ensure access for all Times Union Letter to the Editor by Seamus Campbell

Check out Young Democrats of America Disability Issues Caucus Chair Seamus Campbell’s letter to the editor in the Albany Times Union about the legal need for accessible college websites and the recent changes to YDA rules requiring Section 508 compliance.

When reading the article “Lawsuits target colleges over access to websites,” Dec. 5, I was troubled to hear that the defendants find the case to be frivolous when, they, in fact, did not create their websites using proper web standards and are, in fact, violating federal law.

When the HTML format was created more than 20 years ago, the World Wide Web’s creator, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, wanted to ensure the web was accessible to everyone. For that reason, things like labels for form items and alternative text for images (which read out descriptions of different elements within a web page to those using assistive technologies like screen readers) are required in order to have valid HTML code, according to the standards set by the W3C – the governing body on web standards.

Furthermore, practically every college in the United States is required to have accessible websites because, under the Rehabilitation Act, any institution that receives any sort of federal funding must provide accommodations to students or prospective students with disabilities. Section 508 of that law is what sets those federal standards, and the website for it is a good resource for people to see what is required of them to create accessible digital content.

In the Young Democrats of America, because we believe our members should have access to the information we disseminate, regardless of disability, we recently passed rules changes to require all of our communications to follow Section 508 guidelines and it is my hope that other institutions will do the same.

Seamus Campbell
New York City
Chair, Young Democrats of America Disability Issues Caucus

New York State Young Democrats Holds 2017 Convention

The New York State Young Democrats (NYSYD) convened in Poughkeepsie, NY from May 5th through 7th to elect new officers, adopt rule changes, and attend trainings to learn the role and relevancy of young democrats on the local, state, and national levels under the Presidency of Donald Trump.

The newly elected Executive Board officers and caucus chairs consists of:

President: Patrick Jordan (Queens)
Executive Vice President: Lauren Bailey (Albany)
Treasurer: Stephanie Campanha Wheaton (Brooklyn)
Secretary: Justin Westbrook-Lowery (Bronx)
National Committeeman: Mohammad Alam (Manhattan)
National Committeewoman: Stacey Eliuk (Queens)
Legal Director: Michael Twomey (Brooklyn)
Capital Region Vice President: Danielle McMullen (Rensselaer)
Central Region Vice President: Brian Garcia (Broome)
Hudson Valley Region Vice President: Jovan Richards (Westchester)
Western Region Vice President: Heather Neu (Monroe)
Chair of Council of Presidents: John Midwood (Dutchess)
Caucus of Color Co-Chair: Jugba Santi (Bronx)
Caucus of Color Co-Chair: Kyle Ishmael (Manhattan)
Disability Issues Caucus Chair: Jim Kane (Dutchess)
Jewish Caucus Chair: Brent Weitzberg (Queens)
Labor Caucus Chair: Rebecca Lamorte (Manhattan)
LGBT Caucus Chair: KC Hankins (Staten Island)
Rural Caucus Chair: Paolo Cemedis (Chemung)
Women’s Caucus Chair: Veronica Aveis (Brooklyn)

“When I decided to run for President, I wanted to have a strong team alongside me and I got exactly that,” said NYSYD President Patrick Jordan. “The team that was elected has a great diversity of skills and backgrounds. If we are going to kick out the Republicans and their allies, the work starts now with our local elections. We need to begin now to stop any brand of Trump’s politics that may arise and fight for Democratic values in our State in all 62 counties at all times.” Following the convention, in his first act as President, Jordan appointed Seamus Campbell of Brooklyn to serve as NYSYD Chief of Staff.

Young Democrats from all across New York State attended panel discussions about the role of labor unions during the Era of Trump, women in politics, and a training on how to write and develop a field plan for a successful political campaign – all vital skills as NYSYD prepares for the all-important mid-term elections next year. Speakers throughout the weekend included Assemblyman Michael Blake, former congressional candidate Zephyr Teachout, Assemblywoman Didi Barrett, Executive Director of the New York State Democratic Committee Basil Smikle, and Chairwoman of the Dutchess County Democratic Committee Elisa Sumner. Additionally, NYSYD adopted changes to its Constitution to ensure accountability of the caucuses, fiscal responsibility, and clarified membership requirements.

On the second night of the convention, NYSYD held its 3rd Annual Awards Gala honoring:

Young Elected of the Year: New York State Assemblyman Michael Blake
FDR Trailblazer Award: New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli
Rookie of the Year: Justin Westbrook-Lowery
Labor Leader of the Year: Michele Gilliam
Chapter of the Year: Manhattan Young Democrats
Alumni of the Year: Christopher Smith
Woman of the Year: Amanda Pizzuti
Man of the Year: Michael Corbett

This convention marks the last under the presidency of Mike Corbett. “Having seen all that Patrick has done in Queens and having worked with him for the past three years on the state level,” said Corbett, “I am honored to have been named Man of the Year but I am even more honored to have been succeeded by a man who has the most capable hands to lead this organization.”

NYSYD to Sen. Robert Ortt: Resign

In light of his recent indictment, New York State Young Democrats (NYSYD) calls on Robert Ortt (R-Niagara County) to immediately resign from his seat in the New York State Senate.

In an indictment in Albany County unsealed yesterday, Sen. Robert Ortt was indicted on three felony counts of filing a false instrument in a scheme to create a no-show job for his wife while he was Mayor of North Tonawanda and facing a $5,000 annual salary reduction and funnel $21,500 into his household between 2010 and 2014. The charges were brought by New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

Senator Ortt has pleaded not guilty and said he will not resign his seat in light of the charges. Ortt, however, had no issue in 2015 calling on former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos to resign from his leadership post when Skelos was indicted on similar charges when he arranged a no-show job for his son, Adam.

“As the late, great Yogi Berra liked to say, ‘This is déjà vu all over again,'” said NYSYD President Mike Corbett. “We saw this with Dean Skelos – a public official setup a no-show job for a family member. The people of the 62nd Senate District deserve better than another corrupt official who will end up spending more time in a courtroom than doing work for constituents. It’s only right that Senator Ortt practices what he preached two years ago and step down.”

Stemming from the investigation by Attorney General Schneiderman’s Office, Ortt’s predecessor, former Sen. George Maziarz, was indicted on five felony counts of filing a false instrument in relation to the scheme and has pleaded not guilty. Maziarz is accused of misusing funds donated to both his campaign committee and the Niagara County Republican Committee in order to funnel money to a former State Senate staff member, who left following allegations of sexually harassing a female colleague, using a “pass-through” entity to hide the payments from public scrutiny. Additionally, Former Niagara County Republican Chairman Henry Wojtaszek has plead guilty to a misdemeanor related to failing to proper file campaign finance disclosures between 2012 and 2013 and will be sentenced later this year.