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Bob McMillanAn Opinion

By Bob McMillan
Presidents v. The Supreme Court

The recent political chatter about “Obamacare” before the Supreme Court of the United States got a great deal of media attention.  President Obama added fuel to the fire when he declared, “Ultimately, I am confident the Supreme Court will not take what would be an unprecedented, extraordinary step of overturning a law that was passed by a strong majority of a democratically elected Congress.”

For someone who was a law professor those words were absurd.  Even if a bill passed unanimously in the house and senate, it could still be overturned – if the law was in violation of the Constitution.

Michael Miller


By Michael Miller
1959: The Year The Music Stopped Playing

Nelson Rockefeller’s nomination for Governor in 1958 was partly an upstate revolt against the continued domination of party affairs by the Nassau Republican organization. Rockefeller was a man who always had bigger fish to fry, and throughout his almost 15 years as governor, he often went out of his way not to step on the toes of the touchy Nassau GOP. That’s why Nassau is the only large New York county without a state office building. Respect the turf.

Just before taking office, Rockefeller announced that State Senator William Hults would be Commissioner of Motor Vehicles, but not until the end of the 1959 legislative session, so that Glen Cove, North Hempstead, Oyster Bay and a sliver of Hempstead wouldn’t lose their Senate representation until 1960.

Mike BarryEye on the Island

By Mike Barry
The Eccentric Heiress Of ‘Empty Mansions’

The Nassau County district attorney’s (DA) office makes a cameo appearance in Empty Mansions, an incredible book about Huguette Clark (1906-2011), the Manhattan-raised heiress whose generosity and eccentricities were legendary.

Now that Ryan Murphy, a creator of television’s “Glee,” has optioned Empty Mansions’ film rights, I imagine a scrum of top actresses are vying to play Clark.

Polling Places

1. We have not had a redistricting year election in Nassau County that didn’t have pockets of problems or confusion in the polling places. Be prepared.

2. Changes in federal and state legislative district borders, effective on January 1, have forced the merger or splitting of some election districts (neighborhood level voting precincts). It didn’t help that the Nassau County Board of Elections, run by the two major parties, was late in finalizing new election district-level maps (making ballot qualification problematic for outsiders).

3. Protect yourself and your loved ones by taking about 15 seconds, preferably right now, and confirm your voter registration and your polling place using the New York State Board of Elections online voter database. Put in your name, address and birthdate and it will give you all relevant district numbers and even a map link showing the location of your polling place. Just type this into any web browser address bar:

4. For every election district voting station, there will be two Democratic and two Republican inspectors, appointed by the parties. Well, theoretically. These are the people who sign you in and direct you to the machine. It is rare that there is any kind of actual malice or mischief on the part of inspectors.

5. In large swaths of this county, the parties exist only on paper, and in some places not even on paper. For a long time, being an Inspector was a respected neighborhood position throughout the year. They conducted local registration drives and were considered party officials and local community representatives. Not so much anymore. Some inspectors are well-meaning, sometimes baffled people with little quality training. Some were pulled in at the last minute, left to flounder by an irresponsible county government.

6. Chances are, the inspectors are just as confused or frustrated as you. In case of emergency, everybody stay calm and the neighborhood will get through it together.

7. Remember this phrase when you go to vote: “Please call Mineola.” In addition to the official main number (571-2411), the county Board of Elections issues inspectors with internal numbers where an Election Day chief can answer questions, dispatch technicians and issue emergency instructions.

8. They have to let you vote, even if you’re challenged. If there is a serious question that can’t be worked out, you can vote on a paper “Affidavit Ballot.” Officials will rule later if your vote will count.

9. If you aren’t sure, ask. 1-866-OUR-VOTE connects to the nonpartisan voter Election Protection Coalition that can help you navigate absentee ballots, Election Day illnesses and other complexities.

10. Last December, the U.S. Election Assistance Commission issued a disturbing report on the optical scan voting machines now used in Nassau and nine other New York counties, including New York City. These DS200 machines, manufactured by the ES&S company of Omaha, were found to occasionally freeze up without warning. They also sometimes failed to create a proper error log file that would let election officials know about and trace problems. They also sometimes misread ballots. In short, the objective tests confirmed what some of us had already figured out by watching. The State Board of Elections was supposed to approve software updates to the DS200 machines, but even minor corrections or changes takes too long. Even after public vetting of the huge testing reports and independent review of the computer code, it takes at least two months for machines to be updated at the county level. In September, the state board punted and will not move forward with improvements until next year.

11. You are warned.