2009-03-20 / Top Stories

Feds Approve Term Limits Extension

By Nicholas Briano

The U.S. Department of Justice has approved the law passed by the City Council to extend term limits, allowing New York City elected officials and Mayor Bloomberg to run for a third consecutive term.

According to the 1965 Voting Rights Act, the Justice Department must approve all changes to voting rules. The act is meant to make certain that any changes would not negatively affect minority candidates and voters.

As a result of the ruling, Mayor Bloomberg is one step closer to solidifying his attempt to run for a third consecutive term this November. One last obstacle would be the pending legislation in state government that would require the extension of term limits be approved by voters in a referendum.

"The Attorney General does not interpose any objection to the specified changes," Christopher Coates, the Justice Department's voting rights chief, wrote this week in a letter to Corporation Counsel Michael Cardozo, the New York City Law Department head.

Cardozo believes the Justice Department's approval in time for the election was important and praised the decision.

"We are very pleased that the Department of Justice has agreed that the standards of section 5 of the Voting Rights Act have been met," Cardozo said. "This approval ensures that the City can move forward with timely implementation of the law in preparation for the upcoming elections."

Legal opponents of the term limits extension law cited that the change discourages minorities from running for office because of the high cost and slim chance of ousting an incumbent in a general election.

Rockaway's Congressman Anthony Weiner, once a strong mayoral candidate, is pulling back on his campaign and considering dropping out. The change in the term limits law and the slim odds of beating Bloomberg may be a reason. Weiner, on the other hand, has justified his actions by saying there is more work to be done in Washington at his current position and that is why he may consider dropping out of the race.

Another mayoral candidate and strong opponent of term limits change, City Comptroller William Thompson, believes Bloomberg doesn't hold the right to change the voting laws.

"By overturning the will of the voters on term limits and creating a new set of rules for himself, Mayor Bloomberg said our votes don't count. I am disappointed that the Federal government has declined to intervene and require the Mayor to give the voters a chance to decide the term limits issue," he said.

Thompson, unlike Weiner, is expected to stay in the mayoral race and will be Bloomberg's biggest hurdle on way to a third consecutive term as mayor. It is still unclear what political party Bloomberg will run under for re-election. Bloomberg's party line will decide whether Bloomberg meets Thompson in the Democratic Primary or the November general election.

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