by Katie Drake

Tim Dunn talks about Unite NY

Tim Dunn talks about Unite NY

Rock City Centre hosted a sold-out crowd of 50 people last Wednesday night as Unite NY presented a talk by John & Jeremy Zogby:  Attitudes Toward Open Primary Reform.

Martin Babinec, the owner of Rock City Center, welcomed the full house and introduced Tim Dunn, Executive Director of Unite NY.

Dunn began by giving some background about the organization.  Unite NY is not a political party, but a non-partisan movement of Democrats, Republicans, and Independents.  Their slogan is “People Over Party” and they believe that by working together we can foster a more representative and functional government and ultimately bring about more positive change to New York State.

Dunn shared some facts:

  • 70% of political races in NYS are decided before Election Day
  • Most of our races do not seek competitive primaries
  • Lower than 20% voter turnout for Primary Elections
  • 3.5 million New Yorkers are not enrolled in a political party (that’s 400k more voters than Rep, Dem, Conservative, and Working Families parties combined)
  • New York State is one of only 9 states in the US that does not allow anyone but Democrats and Republicans to vote in a Primary Election

What do all these facts mean?  That only a tiny fraction of voters decides who should run New York State, unlike the other 41 states that have a version of an open primary.

Unite NY proposes that Democratic and Republican parties open up their primaries to unaffiliated voters (i.e. the other 3.5 million people who currently can’t vote in the primary elections).

Arguably, wouldn’t this allow better, stronger candidates to actually make it through a primary and onto the ballot for Election Day?

Interestingly enough, that’s exactly how the recent poll was done by internationally acclaimed (and Utica) based Zogby Strategies suggests NYS residents are feeling.

John Zogby and his son Jeremy presented the results of the recent Zogby Strategies.  The poll asked about open primaries as a solution to the state’s dysfunctional political system- here’s how they replied.

  • 62% of New York voters are unsatisfied with how the NY pollical system works

Zogby added, “As sick and dysfunctional as people think this system is, they are not throwing the baby out with the bathwater.  There is still a sense that this can change and be reformed for the better.  As a pollster, I take encouragement from that.”

John Zogby presents poll results

John Zogby presents poll results

  • 30% of New Yorkers say that it could bring about “major changes,” another 34% minor changes, and just 20% “no change at all.”
  • 76% agree that “open primaries should allow independent voters to have a say in which candidates advance to the general election.”
  • 68% Agree that “open primaries bring freshness to a system that is currently corrupt, stale and hyper-partisan.”

The poll was given to 1,505 likely voters in the state of NY, commissioned by Unite NY in September of 2021 with only a +/-2.6 percentage margin of sampling error.  It was really interesting to hear Zogby explain the methodology in detail.  The poll included an inclusive and comparable makeup of voters from NYC, Suburban NY, and Upstate.

John Zogby, in his light and meaningful way, made an important announcement about the future of their company.  Zogby said “One more thing regarding the future, we Zogby’s are making a transition.  I couldn’t be prouder, that Jeremy is taking over much of the business and I am welcoming the opportunity to be the old guy who merely has to do the thumbs up and thumbs down.”

The crowd’s engagement level was demonstrated with many strong follow-up questions to the Zogbys’ presentation.

Martin Babinec said, “I am really excited.  We had an incredible turnout tonight with a sellout performance.  What’s exciting for me is the enthusiasm that people have for understanding the depth of the problem and to help bring about some change.   Too often, in NYS, we as citizens feel that if the government is not meeting our needs, that there is nothing we can do about it.  And the idea that our system of how we do elections is what ultimately determines who are the people in the legislature and our executive offices, it’s our election process that determines how our laws are done.  Citizens think there’s nothing we can do, but in fact, there are things we can do.  Because all politics is local.”

If you are interested in learning more about Unite NY, how to become involved or how you can make a difference, you can visit their website at https://UniteNY.org

Rock City Centre is the new building located across from City Hall in Little Falls.  It is a community co-working office space with a tiered membership model for small teams, remote professionals, freelancers, and corporate/community organizations.   Members can utilize the different workspaces on-demand, (much like a gym membership).  You can learn more at www.RockCityCentre.com


Katie Drake moved to Little Falls in 2003 and fell in love with this city. She says she isn’t really a writer, but a storyteller.

The opportunity to highlight the great people of Little Falls, share her personal perspectives and some humor from time to time piqued her interest and here we are.

Just ask her, and she’ll tell you that after growing up in Millers Mills, population 25+ (according to the sign), Little Falls was just the right size. Katie is the oldest of her two brothers and five sisters.

In 2020 Katie and her best friend Chris began their greatest adventure yet in 2020, with the birth of their sweet and sassy son Nolan who makes them laugh every day.

In her free time, Katie loves to snowmobile, golf, hike, and travel.

If you have feedback on one of her articles or an idea for a story, please feel free to reach out to Katie at KatherineDrakeLF@gmail.com, she would love to hear from you.

If this article leaves you wanting more, or you are just bored out of your mind, feel free to check out other articles she has contributed by visiting Katie Drake Archives – My Little Falls.