Gotham Gazette Gotham Gazette is an online publication covering New York policy and politics as well as news on public safety, transportation, education, finance and more. http://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/voting-reform 2018-02-24T02:22:35+00:00 Webmaster webmaster@gothamgazette.com Three Voting Reforms New York Must Pass This Year 2018-02-13T05:00:00+00:00 2018-02-13T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7474:three-voting-reforms-new-york-must-pass-this-year Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/op-ed-carlucci.jpg" alt="op ed carlucci" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>State Senator David Carlucci, the author</p> <hr /> <p>New York’s voting laws are woefully outdated and lag behind much of the rest of our country.&nbsp;Too many New Yorkers experience unfair and unnecessary restrictions when they wish to exercise their constitutional right to vote.&nbsp;Unsurprisingly, New York consistently ranks near the bottom in voter turnout when compared to other states.</p> <p>According to 24/7 Wall St., an average of only 59.2% of eligible New York voters voted in the presidential elections from 2000 through 2012. That makes New York 42nd among the 50 states in voter turnout.&nbsp;As disappointing as these figures are, voter turnout has been even lower in midterm and state elections.&nbsp;This is why we need voting reform in our state.</p> <p>I applaud Governor Cuomo’s 30-day budget amendment that calls for $7 million to fund early voting in counties across the state. New York is one of only 13 states that does not offer early voting, a deficiency we must change now.&nbsp;New Yorkers are busy, having the convenient option to go to the polls up to 12 days before Election Day means people don’t have to choose between going to work or school and voting.&nbsp;It is time we join the other 37 states and the District of Columbia (Washington, D.C.) and provide New Yorkers with access to early voting.&nbsp;A recent&nbsp;Siena&nbsp;College poll indicates that 65% of New Yorkers support early voting.</p> <p>Automatic voter registration (AVR) is another proposal that New York should adopt.&nbsp;AVR&nbsp;allows people to be automatically registered to vote when they interact with the Department of Motor Vehicles. People would no longer have to worry about registration deadlines or application submissions.&nbsp;After witnessing the success of&nbsp;AVR&nbsp;in Oregon, eight other states have approved it.&nbsp; No citizen should ever be denied his or her constitutional right to vote, and we should make the registration process easy and convenient. I have fought for legislation to enact&nbsp;AVR&nbsp;since 2015. This is the year to pass it.</p> <p>Finally, same-day voter registration (SDR) should be enacted so eligible New York voters can register to vote the same day they go to the polls. This eliminates registration deadlines people may miss. Fifteen states and Washington, D.C. have adopted some form of&nbsp;SDR.&nbsp;In their report entitled “America Goes to the Polls 2016,” Nonprofit VOTE and the U.S. Elections Project claim that same-day voter registration “has the most&nbsp;discernible&nbsp;impact on increasing voter turnout.”&nbsp;These organizations estimate that since 1996, states that allow SDR have experienced voter turnout seven to 13 points higher, on average, than states without SDR.&nbsp;</p> <p>For too long, New York voting laws have suppressed voter turnout and have discouraged public participation in governance.&nbsp;I stand by the Governor’s plan to reform voting, and I encourage my fellow elected representatives to enact these proposals.</p> <p>***<br /> David Carlucci is the state senator representing the 38th Senate district. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/DavidCarlucci" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@DavidCarlucci</a>.</p> <p>

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<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/op-ed-carlucci.jpg" alt="op ed carlucci" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>State Senator David Carlucci, the author</p> <hr /> <p>New York’s voting laws are woefully outdated and lag behind much of the rest of our country.&nbsp;Too many New Yorkers experience unfair and unnecessary restrictions when they wish to exercise their constitutional right to vote.&nbsp;Unsurprisingly, New York consistently ranks near the bottom in voter turnout when compared to other states.</p> <p>According to 24/7 Wall St., an average of only 59.2% of eligible New York voters voted in the presidential elections from 2000 through 2012. That makes New York 42nd among the 50 states in voter turnout.&nbsp;As disappointing as these figures are, voter turnout has been even lower in midterm and state elections.&nbsp;This is why we need voting reform in our state.</p> <p>I applaud Governor Cuomo’s 30-day budget amendment that calls for $7 million to fund early voting in counties across the state. New York is one of only 13 states that does not offer early voting, a deficiency we must change now.&nbsp;New Yorkers are busy, having the convenient option to go to the polls up to 12 days before Election Day means people don’t have to choose between going to work or school and voting.&nbsp;It is time we join the other 37 states and the District of Columbia (Washington, D.C.) and provide New Yorkers with access to early voting.&nbsp;A recent&nbsp;Siena&nbsp;College poll indicates that 65% of New Yorkers support early voting.</p> <p>Automatic voter registration (AVR) is another proposal that New York should adopt.&nbsp;AVR&nbsp;allows people to be automatically registered to vote when they interact with the Department of Motor Vehicles. People would no longer have to worry about registration deadlines or application submissions.&nbsp;After witnessing the success of&nbsp;AVR&nbsp;in Oregon, eight other states have approved it.&nbsp; No citizen should ever be denied his or her constitutional right to vote, and we should make the registration process easy and convenient. I have fought for legislation to enact&nbsp;AVR&nbsp;since 2015. This is the year to pass it.</p> <p>Finally, same-day voter registration (SDR) should be enacted so eligible New York voters can register to vote the same day they go to the polls. This eliminates registration deadlines people may miss. Fifteen states and Washington, D.C. have adopted some form of&nbsp;SDR.&nbsp;In their report entitled “America Goes to the Polls 2016,” Nonprofit VOTE and the U.S. Elections Project claim that same-day voter registration “has the most&nbsp;discernible&nbsp;impact on increasing voter turnout.”&nbsp;These organizations estimate that since 1996, states that allow SDR have experienced voter turnout seven to 13 points higher, on average, than states without SDR.&nbsp;</p> <p>For too long, New York voting laws have suppressed voter turnout and have discouraged public participation in governance.&nbsp;I stand by the Governor’s plan to reform voting, and I encourage my fellow elected representatives to enact these proposals.</p> <p>***<br /> David Carlucci is the state senator representing the 38th Senate district. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/DavidCarlucci" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@DavidCarlucci</a>.</p> <p>

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Cuomo's 2018 State of the State 'Reform' Agenda Largely Repeats Past Proposals 2018-01-03T05:00:00+00:00 2018-01-03T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7403:cuomo-s-2018-state-of-the-state-reform-agenda-largely-repeats-past-proposals Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/reset_1/39477610921_158bf7e1ba_z.jpg" alt="Cuomo State of the State reforms" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Gov. Cuomo at his 2018 State of the State (photo:&nbsp;Philip Kamrass/Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>During his 2018 State of the State speech on Wednesday in Albany, Governor Andrew Cuomo spent little time on government ethics reform, but did address at somewhat greater length his proposals to increase access to the ballot box and change state campaign finance law.</p> <p>In sum, the “reform” portion of Cuomo’s remarks were relatively brief, though the governor did expand more on his proposals to change voting, campaign financing, political advertising, and the jobs of legislators in the accompanying <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/sites/governor.ny.gov/files/atoms/files/2018-stateofthestatebook.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">374-page policy book</a> that details his 2018 agenda. Many of these proposals are repeated from prior years. Cuomo has not prioritized things like early voting or a public campaign finance system, so they have not become law in New York.</p> <p>Known for his ability to bend the Legislature to his will for policy items he puts his weight behind -- like marriage equality or a $15 minimum wage program -- Cuomo has overseen some incremental ethics reforms but little by way of seismic shifts to prevent corruption or increase election participation. He has also been unwilling to go along with contracting reform that is aimed at bringing more oversight and transparency to his own economic development programming.</p> <p>The governor’s speech came just ahead of a handful of corruption trials that will occur this year, including some of his top aides and donors who are accused of engaging in major bid-rigging and kickback schemes dealing with the governor’s signature economic development programs. Two former legislative leaders will also be retried for public corruption after their recent convictions were overturned due to a new Supreme Court ruling.</p> <p>In an hour-and-a-half speech on Wednesday, government ethics was sandwiched briefly between Cuomo’s discussion of doing more to help mentally ill homeless people and focusing on “new problems” facing the state, like the “rise in terrorism,” climate change, the opioid epidemic, and more. Cuomo devoted just one brief segment to the topic, and in doing so nodded to legislators’ disinterest in further reform.<br /> <br />“With all we have to do as a government, it is more important than ever that we have the public's trust,” Cuomo said. “I know the Legislature feels that we have done much on ethics reform and they are right. I know they feel that whatever we do, it will never be enough in this political atmosphere and they may be right, but we must do more anyway. The single best ethics reform is to ban outside income, remove any possibility for conflict and let legislators say 'I work for the public. Period. And there are no possible conflicts presented.’”<br /> <br />The Democratic governor, now in the final year of his second term and seeking a third, has proposed banning outside income for legislators before, along with other reforms that he did not name Wednesday but are again in his policy book, like term limits. These and campaign finance reforms have mostly gone nowhere in the Legislature, especially the Republican-controlled state Senate, though lawmakers would like their first salary increase since 1999. Cuomo is in favor of a pay raise for legislators, but in exchange for strict limits on outside income and other reforms.<br /> <br />In moving toward “new” challenges, Cuomo referenced previously announced pieces of his larger “Democracy Agenda,” including more transparency for online political advertisements. Action must be taken, he said, to address “the distortion and manipulation of our elections by big donors, foreign money and social media advertising and the alienation of our citizens.” <br /> <br />Noting that “social media has revolutionized our elections,” Cuomo said that the “freedom of the internet” must be respected, but that laws must be followed. “Foreign countries like Russia and big anonymous donors cannot jeopardize our democracy. Social media must disclose who or what pays for political advertising because sunlight is still the best disinfectant.”<br /> <br />“Disclosure must apply to social media the same way that it applies to a newspaper ad or a TV ad or a radio ad,” Cuomo said. “Anything else is a scam and a perversion of the law and an affront to democracy. Let's stop this abuse, and while Washington talks about it and dithers, let New York lead the way and address this challenge and let's do it this session.”<br /> <br />Cuomo also said that in “this time of citizen alienation and outrage, the best thing we can do is let people know that their voice is heard, that they matter and that they can and they should vote. And we should make voting easier, not harder, with same-day registration, no-fault absentee ballots, and early voting.”<br /> <br />He said that New York could “increase trust” through campaign finance reforms like closing the infamous LLC loophole, which allows virtually unlimited campaign donations from people and businesses through multiple limited liability companies (which Cuomo has benefited mightily from), and public financing of electoral campaigns. Both are ideas Cuomo has said he supports for years but has not been able to see passed through the Legislature. A 2014 pilot public campaign financing program that was passed but only applied to the comptroller race fizzled almost immediately.<br /> <br />Cuomo, king of the mega-donors, as <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/13/nyregion/cuomo-a-master-of-the-50000-fund-raiser-bypasses-small-donors.html?_r=0" target="_blank" rel="noopener">The New York Times recently pointed out</a>, says in his policy book that “candidates are incentivized to focus on large donations over small ones.” New York does have excessively high individual donation limits, at more than $65,000 for gubernatorial candidates. Cuomo writes that the only way to fix the situation is to offer matching funds for smaller donations, like the New York City system does.<br /> <br />The governor is also calling for laws mandating financial disclosures by local elected officials, which would institute requirements on officials not in state government, but municipal and county offices around the state, where there are not uniform requirements to create more transparency around potential conflicts of interest.</p> <p>Cuomo is also again calling for extending the state’s Freedom of Information Law to the Legislature, which is not currently subject. He also calls for FOIL and the open meetings law to apply to state ethics monitors the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) and the Legislative Ethics Commission.</p> <p>The governor is again calling for extending the power of the state Inspector General to nonprofits affiliated with the SUNY and CUNY systems, including their contracting processes. This reform relates to some of the alleged bid-rigging in Cuomo’s economic development programs. While Cuomo is open to the IG having more power, he continues to resist re-establishing the state Comptroller’s pre-clearance of contracts procured through SUNY-affiliated nonprofits.</p> <p>On that same note, Cuomo is also again proposing the creation of a Chief Procurement Officer in order to “oversee the integrity” of contracting processes. Critics have called this potential position duplicative given the role of the Comptroller. The governor’s policy book notes, “despite existing legal safeguards, conflicts of interest and unlawful conduct may jeopardize the impartiality and objectivity of the current procurement process. This risk is further heightened by the significant amount of dollars spent by state and local public agencies, which exceeds tens of billions of dollars annually.”</p> <p>Cuomo is also proposing legislation toward eventually creating a uniform contract-tracking system among various state entities that each currently use their own.</p> <p>There is no indication of a new appetite for the voting, ethics, and campaign finance reforms that Cuomo has proposed before, and it is unclear if there will be support for some of the new proposals, like more transparency around digital political advertisements. Several of the proposals would likely pass if the state Senate flips to Democrats, which could occur at some point later this year. The governor must first call a special election for the 11 vacancies in the Legislature, two of which are in the Senate.</p> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/reset_1/39477610921_158bf7e1ba_z.jpg" alt="Cuomo State of the State reforms" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Gov. Cuomo at his 2018 State of the State (photo:&nbsp;Philip Kamrass/Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>During his 2018 State of the State speech on Wednesday in Albany, Governor Andrew Cuomo spent little time on government ethics reform, but did address at somewhat greater length his proposals to increase access to the ballot box and change state campaign finance law.</p> <p>In sum, the “reform” portion of Cuomo’s remarks were relatively brief, though the governor did expand more on his proposals to change voting, campaign financing, political advertising, and the jobs of legislators in the accompanying <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/sites/governor.ny.gov/files/atoms/files/2018-stateofthestatebook.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">374-page policy book</a> that details his 2018 agenda. Many of these proposals are repeated from prior years. Cuomo has not prioritized things like early voting or a public campaign finance system, so they have not become law in New York.</p> <p>Known for his ability to bend the Legislature to his will for policy items he puts his weight behind -- like marriage equality or a $15 minimum wage program -- Cuomo has overseen some incremental ethics reforms but little by way of seismic shifts to prevent corruption or increase election participation. He has also been unwilling to go along with contracting reform that is aimed at bringing more oversight and transparency to his own economic development programming.</p> <p>The governor’s speech came just ahead of a handful of corruption trials that will occur this year, including some of his top aides and donors who are accused of engaging in major bid-rigging and kickback schemes dealing with the governor’s signature economic development programs. Two former legislative leaders will also be retried for public corruption after their recent convictions were overturned due to a new Supreme Court ruling.</p> <p>In an hour-and-a-half speech on Wednesday, government ethics was sandwiched briefly between Cuomo’s discussion of doing more to help mentally ill homeless people and focusing on “new problems” facing the state, like the “rise in terrorism,” climate change, the opioid epidemic, and more. Cuomo devoted just one brief segment to the topic, and in doing so nodded to legislators’ disinterest in further reform.<br /> <br />“With all we have to do as a government, it is more important than ever that we have the public's trust,” Cuomo said. “I know the Legislature feels that we have done much on ethics reform and they are right. I know they feel that whatever we do, it will never be enough in this political atmosphere and they may be right, but we must do more anyway. The single best ethics reform is to ban outside income, remove any possibility for conflict and let legislators say 'I work for the public. Period. And there are no possible conflicts presented.’”<br /> <br />The Democratic governor, now in the final year of his second term and seeking a third, has proposed banning outside income for legislators before, along with other reforms that he did not name Wednesday but are again in his policy book, like term limits. These and campaign finance reforms have mostly gone nowhere in the Legislature, especially the Republican-controlled state Senate, though lawmakers would like their first salary increase since 1999. Cuomo is in favor of a pay raise for legislators, but in exchange for strict limits on outside income and other reforms.<br /> <br />In moving toward “new” challenges, Cuomo referenced previously announced pieces of his larger “Democracy Agenda,” including more transparency for online political advertisements. Action must be taken, he said, to address “the distortion and manipulation of our elections by big donors, foreign money and social media advertising and the alienation of our citizens.” <br /> <br />Noting that “social media has revolutionized our elections,” Cuomo said that the “freedom of the internet” must be respected, but that laws must be followed. “Foreign countries like Russia and big anonymous donors cannot jeopardize our democracy. Social media must disclose who or what pays for political advertising because sunlight is still the best disinfectant.”<br /> <br />“Disclosure must apply to social media the same way that it applies to a newspaper ad or a TV ad or a radio ad,” Cuomo said. “Anything else is a scam and a perversion of the law and an affront to democracy. Let's stop this abuse, and while Washington talks about it and dithers, let New York lead the way and address this challenge and let's do it this session.”<br /> <br />Cuomo also said that in “this time of citizen alienation and outrage, the best thing we can do is let people know that their voice is heard, that they matter and that they can and they should vote. And we should make voting easier, not harder, with same-day registration, no-fault absentee ballots, and early voting.”<br /> <br />He said that New York could “increase trust” through campaign finance reforms like closing the infamous LLC loophole, which allows virtually unlimited campaign donations from people and businesses through multiple limited liability companies (which Cuomo has benefited mightily from), and public financing of electoral campaigns. Both are ideas Cuomo has said he supports for years but has not been able to see passed through the Legislature. A 2014 pilot public campaign financing program that was passed but only applied to the comptroller race fizzled almost immediately.<br /> <br />Cuomo, king of the mega-donors, as <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/13/nyregion/cuomo-a-master-of-the-50000-fund-raiser-bypasses-small-donors.html?_r=0" target="_blank" rel="noopener">The New York Times recently pointed out</a>, says in his policy book that “candidates are incentivized to focus on large donations over small ones.” New York does have excessively high individual donation limits, at more than $65,000 for gubernatorial candidates. Cuomo writes that the only way to fix the situation is to offer matching funds for smaller donations, like the New York City system does.<br /> <br />The governor is also calling for laws mandating financial disclosures by local elected officials, which would institute requirements on officials not in state government, but municipal and county offices around the state, where there are not uniform requirements to create more transparency around potential conflicts of interest.</p> <p>Cuomo is also again calling for extending the state’s Freedom of Information Law to the Legislature, which is not currently subject. He also calls for FOIL and the open meetings law to apply to state ethics monitors the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) and the Legislative Ethics Commission.</p> <p>The governor is again calling for extending the power of the state Inspector General to nonprofits affiliated with the SUNY and CUNY systems, including their contracting processes. This reform relates to some of the alleged bid-rigging in Cuomo’s economic development programs. While Cuomo is open to the IG having more power, he continues to resist re-establishing the state Comptroller’s pre-clearance of contracts procured through SUNY-affiliated nonprofits.</p> <p>On that same note, Cuomo is also again proposing the creation of a Chief Procurement Officer in order to “oversee the integrity” of contracting processes. Critics have called this potential position duplicative given the role of the Comptroller. The governor’s policy book notes, “despite existing legal safeguards, conflicts of interest and unlawful conduct may jeopardize the impartiality and objectivity of the current procurement process. This risk is further heightened by the significant amount of dollars spent by state and local public agencies, which exceeds tens of billions of dollars annually.”</p> <p>Cuomo is also proposing legislation toward eventually creating a uniform contract-tracking system among various state entities that each currently use their own.</p> <p>There is no indication of a new appetite for the voting, ethics, and campaign finance reforms that Cuomo has proposed before, and it is unclear if there will be support for some of the new proposals, like more transparency around digital political advertisements. Several of the proposals would likely pass if the state Senate flips to Democrats, which could occur at some point later this year. The governor must first call a special election for the 11 vacancies in the Legislature, two of which are in the Senate.</p> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
Cuomo Unveils ‘Democracy Agenda’ of Ad Transparency, Election Security and Voting Reforms 2017-12-21T05:00:00+00:00 2017-12-21T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7384:cuomo-unveils-democracy-agenda-of-ad-transparency-election-security-and-voting-reforms Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/38198034236_bf971489f7_z.jpg" alt="38198034236 bf971489f7 z" width="600" height="367" /></p> <p>Gov. Cuomo voting (photo: Kevin P. Coughlin/Office of the Governor)</p> <hr /> <p>Governor Andrew Cuomo on Thursday unveiled his “Democracy Agenda,” a plan to create more transparency in political advertising and require online platforms to archive political ads, protect state elections from hacking threats, and enhance voting opportunities.</p> <p>The 13th proposal of the governor’s developing 2018 State of the State speech, the advertising transparency and cybersecurity initiatives are joined by three voting reform measures that were introduced by Cuomo <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/6724-cuomo-embraces-voting-reform-agenda-but-implementation-poses-challenges" target="_blank" rel="noopener">last year</a> but did not pass: early voting, automatic voter registration, and same-day voter registration.</p> <p>"What we saw during the last election was a systematic effort to undermine and manipulate our very democracy," Cuomo said in a statement. "With these new safeguards, New York — in the strongest terms possible — will combat unscrupulous and shadowy threats to our electoral process, as well as break down fundamental barriers that for far too long have prevented New Yorkers from being heard and from exercising their right to vote."</p> <p>In his 2017 agenda, Cuomo included the voting reforms as part of <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/6711-acknowledging-pervasive-corruption-cuomo-releases-10-point-government-ethics-agenda" target="_blank" rel="noopener">his 10-point government ethics program</a>, which included strengthening campaign finance laws, such as closing the LLC loophole, which allows virtually unlimited donations to elected officials. None of the planks were passed, either in the budget in April or at the end of the legislative session in June.</p> <p>A spokesperson for the governor’s office declined to reveal whether ethics and campaign finance reform will be introduced in a separate plank during the governor’s upcoming SOTS address, but said the administration was committed to getting the announced electoral reforms passed.</p> <p>“In our political environment, it can sometimes takes multiple years for the legislature to pass reforms like these—as was the case with raise the age, the minimum wage increase, and even marriage equality, which failed in 2009 and then passed with bipartisan support two years later,” said Cuomo spokesperson Elizabeth Bibi. “This administration remains committed to modernizing our election process and will work with the legislature on this issue.”</p> <p>The voting reform measures are not embraced by leadership in the Republican-controlled state Senate, which clings to power through a ruling coalition with breakaway Democrats, and Cuomo told reporters <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/6823-cuomo-punts-voting-reform-to-after-the-budget" target="_blank" rel="noopener">that there was “no appetite”</a> from the Legislature to implement them during budget negotiations earlier this year.</p> <p>After the legislative session, the governor did sign an executive order expanding the list of agencies required to provide voting registration assistance, but <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7089-voting-reform-advocates-say-cuomo-can-do-more-through-executive-order" target="_blank" rel="noopener">advocates said that the order could have gone further</a>. For example, they say, a task force assembled by Cuomo to explore the implementation of these new rules could also study the costs and benefits of more meaningful electoral reform -- such as early voting and automatic registration -- in order to better sell the proposals to legislative leaders in 2018.</p> <p>If passed, Cuomo’s early voting proposal would allow eligible New Yorkers to cast ballots up to 12 days before Election Day. Automatic voter registration would automatically register anyone who comes in contact with the Department of Motor Vehicles or other government agency unless the person chooses to opt-out, and same-day registration would allow New Yorkers to register to vote when going to the polls to cast their ballots.</p> <p>Reform advocates praised the governor’s Democracy Agenda while urging him to include funding for the proposals in his upcoming budget.</p> <p>“While Governor Cuomo's recent push in cyber security and transparency for elections is an important step forward to ensure that New York's elections remain fair and safe, our basic voting processes also demand improvement,” said Common Cause/NY Executive Director Susan Lerner, in a statement. “Common Cause/NY urges the Governor to include Early Voting in his upcoming budget to create a more equitable voting process for all.”</p> <p>Cuomo’s democracy platform, as presented in a press release, focuses on the proliferation of “fake news” and political ad campaigns on social media platforms, which are not regulated in the same way as advertisements on traditional media platforms. Citing the influence of &nbsp;“unscrupulous and disruptive actors” on the 2016 presidential election, Cuomo’s proposal would codify state regulations as introduced by United States Senate and House members to regulate online advertising for federal elections. The governor vowed to ensure that all social media platforms, and other states, adopt similar policies.</p> <p>“As many as 126 million Americans are estimated to have seen Russian-bought political ads on Facebook alone last year, without realizing that they were seeing content paid for by Russia. &nbsp;Additionally, 131,000 Twitter messages, linked to more than 36,000 Russian accounts, have also been identified,” states the press release from Cuomo’s office.</p> <p>To ensure the fairness and transparency of New York elections, Cuomo has put forth a three-pronged strategy to: expand New York State's definition of political communication to include paid internet and digital advertisements; require digital platforms to maintain a public file of all political advertisements purchased by a person or group for publication on the platform; and require online platforms to make reasonable efforts to ensure that foreign individuals and entities are not purchasing political advertisements in order to influence the American electorate.</p> <p>Violations of these requirements would be subject to a civil penalty of up to $1,000, according to Cuomo’s office.</p> <p>The cybersecurity component seeks to keep elections uncorrupted by hackers. Earlier this year, following numerous reports of Russian meddling in the 2016 election, Cuomo directed the New York State Cyber Security Advisory Board to work with state agencies and the State and County Boards of Election to assess the threats to the cybersecurity of New York's elections infrastructure, identify security priorities, and recommend any necessary additional security measures.</p> <p>As a result of this review, Cuomo says he is proposing a four-pronged approach to further strengthen cyber protections for New York's elections infrastructure: create an Election Support Center; develop an Elections Cyber Security Support Toolkit; provide cyber risk vulnerability assessments and support for local boards of elections; and require counties to report data breaches to state authorities.</p> <p>Governmental reform advocates had praise for Cuomo’s proposals, as promoted through the governor’s press release.</p> <p>"Our democracy urgently needs repair. Washington has not yet acted, but states can. Today New York lags behind many other states. With these reforms it can step into the lead, making it easier to register and vote, and protecting the system from abuse,” said Michael Waldman, president of the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, in a statement.</p> <p>He noted that automatic voter registration, if done right, could add millions to the rolls, cost less, and bolster security. Meanwhile, early voting and same-day registration would make voting far easier for working people.</p> <p>“And it is vital to ensure that foreign governments and other malevolent actors can't distort elections with dark money ads or attacks on voting machines and databases. Governor Cuomo's agenda would be a powerful step forward. It's worth fighting for. We hope Albany listens," Waldman said.</p> <p>The governor’s 13th State of the State proposal also received praise from Senator Todd Kaminsky, a Democrat from Long Island who has introduced similar legislation to prevent anonymous and false political attack ads on social media, and Kaminsky’s fellow Senate Democrats, who have long pushed for voting reforms like the ones unveiled today.<a href="https://www.scribd.com/document/338555295/7-Shocking-Facts-About-New-York-s-Voting-Laws" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><br /></a></p> <p>“I thank Governor Cuomo for joining this important effort to rid our election process of these false, misleading, and anonymous advertisements. These often dirty attacks that are aimed at providing misinformation to voters undermine our democracy. Voters deserve full transparency during their elections,” said Kaminsky. “It is important that we restore the voters' trust in government, and Governor Cuomo advancing this initiative will ensure we are able to take real steps to clean up campaigns in New York.”</p> <p>Each year, ahead of his annual State of the State address, which for 2018 will take place on January 3, Cuomo typically previews several planks of his new agenda. Other initiatives unveiled so far have focused on environmental investment and protections, strengthening of labor laws, gun control, and returning the Islanders hockey team to Long Island.</p> <p>

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by Rachel Silberstein, State government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/38198034236_bf971489f7_z.jpg" alt="38198034236 bf971489f7 z" width="600" height="367" /></p> <p>Gov. Cuomo voting (photo: Kevin P. Coughlin/Office of the Governor)</p> <hr /> <p>Governor Andrew Cuomo on Thursday unveiled his “Democracy Agenda,” a plan to create more transparency in political advertising and require online platforms to archive political ads, protect state elections from hacking threats, and enhance voting opportunities.</p> <p>The 13th proposal of the governor’s developing 2018 State of the State speech, the advertising transparency and cybersecurity initiatives are joined by three voting reform measures that were introduced by Cuomo <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/6724-cuomo-embraces-voting-reform-agenda-but-implementation-poses-challenges" target="_blank" rel="noopener">last year</a> but did not pass: early voting, automatic voter registration, and same-day voter registration.</p> <p>"What we saw during the last election was a systematic effort to undermine and manipulate our very democracy," Cuomo said in a statement. "With these new safeguards, New York — in the strongest terms possible — will combat unscrupulous and shadowy threats to our electoral process, as well as break down fundamental barriers that for far too long have prevented New Yorkers from being heard and from exercising their right to vote."</p> <p>In his 2017 agenda, Cuomo included the voting reforms as part of <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/6711-acknowledging-pervasive-corruption-cuomo-releases-10-point-government-ethics-agenda" target="_blank" rel="noopener">his 10-point government ethics program</a>, which included strengthening campaign finance laws, such as closing the LLC loophole, which allows virtually unlimited donations to elected officials. None of the planks were passed, either in the budget in April or at the end of the legislative session in June.</p> <p>A spokesperson for the governor’s office declined to reveal whether ethics and campaign finance reform will be introduced in a separate plank during the governor’s upcoming SOTS address, but said the administration was committed to getting the announced electoral reforms passed.</p> <p>“In our political environment, it can sometimes takes multiple years for the legislature to pass reforms like these—as was the case with raise the age, the minimum wage increase, and even marriage equality, which failed in 2009 and then passed with bipartisan support two years later,” said Cuomo spokesperson Elizabeth Bibi. “This administration remains committed to modernizing our election process and will work with the legislature on this issue.”</p> <p>The voting reform measures are not embraced by leadership in the Republican-controlled state Senate, which clings to power through a ruling coalition with breakaway Democrats, and Cuomo told reporters <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/6823-cuomo-punts-voting-reform-to-after-the-budget" target="_blank" rel="noopener">that there was “no appetite”</a> from the Legislature to implement them during budget negotiations earlier this year.</p> <p>After the legislative session, the governor did sign an executive order expanding the list of agencies required to provide voting registration assistance, but <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7089-voting-reform-advocates-say-cuomo-can-do-more-through-executive-order" target="_blank" rel="noopener">advocates said that the order could have gone further</a>. For example, they say, a task force assembled by Cuomo to explore the implementation of these new rules could also study the costs and benefits of more meaningful electoral reform -- such as early voting and automatic registration -- in order to better sell the proposals to legislative leaders in 2018.</p> <p>If passed, Cuomo’s early voting proposal would allow eligible New Yorkers to cast ballots up to 12 days before Election Day. Automatic voter registration would automatically register anyone who comes in contact with the Department of Motor Vehicles or other government agency unless the person chooses to opt-out, and same-day registration would allow New Yorkers to register to vote when going to the polls to cast their ballots.</p> <p>Reform advocates praised the governor’s Democracy Agenda while urging him to include funding for the proposals in his upcoming budget.</p> <p>“While Governor Cuomo's recent push in cyber security and transparency for elections is an important step forward to ensure that New York's elections remain fair and safe, our basic voting processes also demand improvement,” said Common Cause/NY Executive Director Susan Lerner, in a statement. “Common Cause/NY urges the Governor to include Early Voting in his upcoming budget to create a more equitable voting process for all.”</p> <p>Cuomo’s democracy platform, as presented in a press release, focuses on the proliferation of “fake news” and political ad campaigns on social media platforms, which are not regulated in the same way as advertisements on traditional media platforms. Citing the influence of &nbsp;“unscrupulous and disruptive actors” on the 2016 presidential election, Cuomo’s proposal would codify state regulations as introduced by United States Senate and House members to regulate online advertising for federal elections. The governor vowed to ensure that all social media platforms, and other states, adopt similar policies.</p> <p>“As many as 126 million Americans are estimated to have seen Russian-bought political ads on Facebook alone last year, without realizing that they were seeing content paid for by Russia. &nbsp;Additionally, 131,000 Twitter messages, linked to more than 36,000 Russian accounts, have also been identified,” states the press release from Cuomo’s office.</p> <p>To ensure the fairness and transparency of New York elections, Cuomo has put forth a three-pronged strategy to: expand New York State's definition of political communication to include paid internet and digital advertisements; require digital platforms to maintain a public file of all political advertisements purchased by a person or group for publication on the platform; and require online platforms to make reasonable efforts to ensure that foreign individuals and entities are not purchasing political advertisements in order to influence the American electorate.</p> <p>Violations of these requirements would be subject to a civil penalty of up to $1,000, according to Cuomo’s office.</p> <p>The cybersecurity component seeks to keep elections uncorrupted by hackers. Earlier this year, following numerous reports of Russian meddling in the 2016 election, Cuomo directed the New York State Cyber Security Advisory Board to work with state agencies and the State and County Boards of Election to assess the threats to the cybersecurity of New York's elections infrastructure, identify security priorities, and recommend any necessary additional security measures.</p> <p>As a result of this review, Cuomo says he is proposing a four-pronged approach to further strengthen cyber protections for New York's elections infrastructure: create an Election Support Center; develop an Elections Cyber Security Support Toolkit; provide cyber risk vulnerability assessments and support for local boards of elections; and require counties to report data breaches to state authorities.</p> <p>Governmental reform advocates had praise for Cuomo’s proposals, as promoted through the governor’s press release.</p> <p>"Our democracy urgently needs repair. Washington has not yet acted, but states can. Today New York lags behind many other states. With these reforms it can step into the lead, making it easier to register and vote, and protecting the system from abuse,” said Michael Waldman, president of the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, in a statement.</p> <p>He noted that automatic voter registration, if done right, could add millions to the rolls, cost less, and bolster security. Meanwhile, early voting and same-day registration would make voting far easier for working people.</p> <p>“And it is vital to ensure that foreign governments and other malevolent actors can't distort elections with dark money ads or attacks on voting machines and databases. Governor Cuomo's agenda would be a powerful step forward. It's worth fighting for. We hope Albany listens," Waldman said.</p> <p>The governor’s 13th State of the State proposal also received praise from Senator Todd Kaminsky, a Democrat from Long Island who has introduced similar legislation to prevent anonymous and false political attack ads on social media, and Kaminsky’s fellow Senate Democrats, who have long pushed for voting reforms like the ones unveiled today.<a href="https://www.scribd.com/document/338555295/7-Shocking-Facts-About-New-York-s-Voting-Laws" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><br /></a></p> <p>“I thank Governor Cuomo for joining this important effort to rid our election process of these false, misleading, and anonymous advertisements. These often dirty attacks that are aimed at providing misinformation to voters undermine our democracy. Voters deserve full transparency during their elections,” said Kaminsky. “It is important that we restore the voters' trust in government, and Governor Cuomo advancing this initiative will ensure we are able to take real steps to clean up campaigns in New York.”</p> <p>Each year, ahead of his annual State of the State address, which for 2018 will take place on January 3, Cuomo typically previews several planks of his new agenda. Other initiatives unveiled so far have focused on environmental investment and protections, strengthening of labor laws, gun control, and returning the Islanders hockey team to Long Island.</p> <p>

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by Rachel Silberstein, State government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
Online Voter Registration on Verge of Passage in New York City 2017-11-09T05:00:00+00:00 2017-11-09T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7314:online-voter-registration-on-verge-of-passage-in-new-york-city Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/reset_1/polling_place.jpg" alt="polling place" width="600" height="336" /></p> <p>Polling place (photo: Samar Khurshid/Gotham Gazette)</p> <hr /> <p>As New York State’s archaic election and voting laws continue to dampen voter turnout, the New York City Council is about to take a step to encourage participation. The City Council’s governmental operations committee will vote on Tuesday, November 14 to approve a bill allowing online voter registration for city residents, Council Member Ben Kallos, chair of the committee, told Gotham Gazette on Thursday. The bill is then expected to pass the full City Council on Thursday.</p> <p>“With the historic low in turnout on Tuesday, online voter registration will be an essential tool to help more residents become voters,” Kallos said in a phone interview, referring to the 22 percent of registered voters who showed up to the polls to vote for mayor. Following the committee vote, the bill will head to the Council floor for a vote at its next stated meeting, he said.</p> <p>New York’s laws lag behind most other states and voter turnout has been consistently low in recent elections at the federal, state and city level. Nationally, 34 states and Washington D.C. allow some form of online voter registration. Although New Yorkers can submit registration forms online through the Department of Motor Vehicles, only those with DMV-issued identification can do so. “Many people in urban areas, which have higher concentrations of low-income communities of color, may not have drivers licenses because they rely on public transportation,” Kallos said.</p> <p>Kallos’ <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=1946650&amp;GUID=6045AF54-D2A4-4432-8561-8657E969D5F5&amp;Options=ID%7cText%7c&amp;Search=508">bill</a> requires that the New York City Campaign Finance Board, or another agency designated by the mayor, create a website and mobile application where residents can register to vote or update their registration. The agency will have to submit those registration forms to the Board of Elections within two weeks, and the portal will inform applicants when their registration will go into effect. The online form will allow applicants to either upload files with a copy of their handwritten signature, a photo for instance, or directly sign the form using a touchscreen.</p> <p>“I think it’s long overdue and it’s good to see the City of New York join the 20th century,” Kallos said, hinting that the state’s voting laws require broader modernization. While online registration would make registering easier, to significantly improve turnout -- millions of registered New Yorkers do not vote in local elections -- many point to state-level reforms, such as early voting and same-day registration, which have stalled in Albany, curbed by the Republican-controlled state Senate.</p> <p>“Anything that can be done to improve New York’s appalling voter participation rate is worth doing,” said Blair Horner, executive director of the New York Public Interest Research Group, a nonprofit that advocates for better election laws. “We live in the 21st century. We shouldn’t have VHS technology in the Netflix age and this makes perfect sense to do what can be done to make it easier for people to register to vote.”</p> <p>Kallos, a Democrat who represents the Upper East Side, credited Attorney General Eric Schneiderman for paving the way for online registration through an <a href="https://ag.ny.gov/pdfs/2016-1_pw.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">informal opinion</a> he issued in April last year. Schneiderman, who was responding to Suffolk County officials seeking clarity on voter registration requirements, wrote that a registration form completed with an “electronically-affixed handwritten signature” would be consistent with state law.</p> <p>Although the bill would take effect 18 months after it is signed into law, Kallos urged the de Blasio administration to move quickly. As a demonstration of the ease with which a portal can be created, he built his own <a href="https://benkallos.nyc/form/webform-voter-registration" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">fully-functional microsite</a>, which he said took only a few hours. “I hope the city doesn’t wait years or months but gets it done in weeks, days or even hours,” he said, also hoping that every city agency integrates links to the portal in online forms, which isn’t mandated in the legislation.</p> <p>“The Administration worked closely with the City Council in crafting this legislation,” said mayoral spokesperson Seth Stein, in an email. “We support online registration and making voting more accessible to New Yorkers. We look forward to reviewing the final legislation when it passes the Council.”</p> <p>Kallos is also hoping that the city’s bill will “convince our colleagues in Albany to bring online voter registration to the state.” The New York State Legislature has been consistently averse to electoral and voting reforms. “Elected officials get elected by the voters that exist, not by the voters who might exist,” said NYPIRG’s Horner. “So there’s a natural reluctance to bring new voters into the system.”</p> <p>He added, “New York needs a soup-to-nuts review of its elections process with a goal toward making it easier for people to register, making it easier for people to vote, not harder, and that’s what New York does unfortunately right now.”</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/reset_1/polling_place.jpg" alt="polling place" width="600" height="336" /></p> <p>Polling place (photo: Samar Khurshid/Gotham Gazette)</p> <hr /> <p>As New York State’s archaic election and voting laws continue to dampen voter turnout, the New York City Council is about to take a step to encourage participation. The City Council’s governmental operations committee will vote on Tuesday, November 14 to approve a bill allowing online voter registration for city residents, Council Member Ben Kallos, chair of the committee, told Gotham Gazette on Thursday. The bill is then expected to pass the full City Council on Thursday.</p> <p>“With the historic low in turnout on Tuesday, online voter registration will be an essential tool to help more residents become voters,” Kallos said in a phone interview, referring to the 22 percent of registered voters who showed up to the polls to vote for mayor. Following the committee vote, the bill will head to the Council floor for a vote at its next stated meeting, he said.</p> <p>New York’s laws lag behind most other states and voter turnout has been consistently low in recent elections at the federal, state and city level. Nationally, 34 states and Washington D.C. allow some form of online voter registration. Although New Yorkers can submit registration forms online through the Department of Motor Vehicles, only those with DMV-issued identification can do so. “Many people in urban areas, which have higher concentrations of low-income communities of color, may not have drivers licenses because they rely on public transportation,” Kallos said.</p> <p>Kallos’ <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=1946650&amp;GUID=6045AF54-D2A4-4432-8561-8657E969D5F5&amp;Options=ID%7cText%7c&amp;Search=508">bill</a> requires that the New York City Campaign Finance Board, or another agency designated by the mayor, create a website and mobile application where residents can register to vote or update their registration. The agency will have to submit those registration forms to the Board of Elections within two weeks, and the portal will inform applicants when their registration will go into effect. The online form will allow applicants to either upload files with a copy of their handwritten signature, a photo for instance, or directly sign the form using a touchscreen.</p> <p>“I think it’s long overdue and it’s good to see the City of New York join the 20th century,” Kallos said, hinting that the state’s voting laws require broader modernization. While online registration would make registering easier, to significantly improve turnout -- millions of registered New Yorkers do not vote in local elections -- many point to state-level reforms, such as early voting and same-day registration, which have stalled in Albany, curbed by the Republican-controlled state Senate.</p> <p>“Anything that can be done to improve New York’s appalling voter participation rate is worth doing,” said Blair Horner, executive director of the New York Public Interest Research Group, a nonprofit that advocates for better election laws. “We live in the 21st century. We shouldn’t have VHS technology in the Netflix age and this makes perfect sense to do what can be done to make it easier for people to register to vote.”</p> <p>Kallos, a Democrat who represents the Upper East Side, credited Attorney General Eric Schneiderman for paving the way for online registration through an <a href="https://ag.ny.gov/pdfs/2016-1_pw.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">informal opinion</a> he issued in April last year. Schneiderman, who was responding to Suffolk County officials seeking clarity on voter registration requirements, wrote that a registration form completed with an “electronically-affixed handwritten signature” would be consistent with state law.</p> <p>Although the bill would take effect 18 months after it is signed into law, Kallos urged the de Blasio administration to move quickly. As a demonstration of the ease with which a portal can be created, he built his own <a href="https://benkallos.nyc/form/webform-voter-registration" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">fully-functional microsite</a>, which he said took only a few hours. “I hope the city doesn’t wait years or months but gets it done in weeks, days or even hours,” he said, also hoping that every city agency integrates links to the portal in online forms, which isn’t mandated in the legislation.</p> <p>“The Administration worked closely with the City Council in crafting this legislation,” said mayoral spokesperson Seth Stein, in an email. “We support online registration and making voting more accessible to New Yorkers. We look forward to reviewing the final legislation when it passes the Council.”</p> <p>Kallos is also hoping that the city’s bill will “convince our colleagues in Albany to bring online voter registration to the state.” The New York State Legislature has been consistently averse to electoral and voting reforms. “Elected officials get elected by the voters that exist, not by the voters who might exist,” said NYPIRG’s Horner. “So there’s a natural reluctance to bring new voters into the system.”</p> <p>He added, “New York needs a soup-to-nuts review of its elections process with a goal toward making it easier for people to register, making it easier for people to vote, not harder, and that’s what New York does unfortunately right now.”</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
As New York Votes, a Push to Allow 17-Year-Olds the Ballot Next 2017-11-07T05:00:00+00:00 2017-11-07T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7303:as-new-york-votes-a-push-to-allow-17-year-olds-the-ballot-next Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/bobbt-carroll-presser.jpg" alt="bobbt carroll presser" width="600" height="484" /></p> <p>Assemblymember Robert Carroll at <span tabindex="0" data-term="goog_1899207167">Monday's</span> rally</p> <hr /> <p>On the eve of Election Day 2017, a state Assembly member from Brooklyn held a press conference focused on voter engagement and turnout, but it wasn’t in support of his own candidacy -- he’s not up for reelection until next year -- or anyone else’s. Instead, Assemblymember Robert Carroll was talking about his push to allow 17-year-olds to vote.</p> <p>In the state capital of Albany, Carroll recently introduced a bill, the Young Voter Act, that would allow 17-year-olds to cast ballots in state and local elections. The voting age is currently 18 for national elections and within New York. The legislation would also require that all students in public high schools receive at least eight hours of formal civics education, and that schools provide voter registration forms to students when they turn 17.</p> <p>The proposal, which Caroll will attempt to see moved when the Legislature returns to session in January, is aimed at improving New York’s dismal record of voter turnout (among the worst states in the country). On Monday, Carroll rallied in support of the bill outside the city’s Board of Elections with fellow Brooklyn Democratic Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon, as well as several politically engaged high school students and advocates.</p> <p>This included the leadership of the <a href="https://yppg-ny.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Youth Progressive Policy Group</a> (YPPG), a group of students whose stated mission is to “give the youth of New York a voice in our state’s political process.” The group claims that engaging people in the electoral process early will lead to a more civically active life later on, and it is thus important to not only educate students in civics at an early age, but also to empower them to be a part of it.</p> <p>YPPG’s President, Eli Frankel, a senior at Manhattan’s Bard High School, was quick to note that 17-year-olds are productive members of civic society in other ways, and that this should be extended to voting.</p> <p>“We are organizing rallies like this, we’re going out and we’re talking to people, and a lot of 17-year-olds are contributing to their communities and have responsibilities of adulthood already,” Frankel told Gotham Gazette. “They’re paying taxes, they’re driving, some can enlist in the military. So, it’s time that voting is incorporated into those responsibilities that 17-year-olds already have so they can begin participating in government in a really substantive way so their voice is heard.”</p> <p>Chris Stauffer, YPPG’s vice chair and a senior at Bard, noted that in places where voting rights were extended to high school students, the turnout results have been very promising.</p> <p>“Sixteen- to 18-year-olds in Takoma Park, Maryland actually have double the turnout than 18- to 25-year-olds,” Stauffer told Gotham Gazette of the locality that has lowered its voting age to 16. “This is without any reform to civics education.” People who are still in high school may have fewer extraneous obligations than someone in the age bracket immediately following, where many are away from home at college, allowing them to vote with regularity and consistency and setting them up for a lifetime of civic engagement.</p> <p>Lowering the voting age alone might not be enough to spur extensive turnout among high school students and young people in general, which is why the bill includes more robust, comprehensive civics education in New York schools.</p> <p>The non-profit group Generation Citizen partners with schools in cities around the country, including New York City, to provide students with an “action civics” curriculum centered around local issues, wherein students seek to enact change in specific issue areas. Generation Citizen helps fill a gap in civics education found in many schools and school systems, but it currently operates in a relatively small percentage of classrooms.</p> <p>Civics education is often lacking in schools, especially as it relates to close-to-home politics and government.</p> <p>“A lot of civics courses focus on larger, more grand themes in American history,” Frankel said. “And the civics seminars that this bill mandates all students get really directs students on the nuts and bolts of how they can go out and vote, how they can fill out a ballot correctly, how to register to vote, how to make sure their voice is heard outside of voting, how elections work, and where they can find the information about candidates and about elections that they need to go out and turn out.”</p> <p>The bill also would provide for instant registration within schools. Schools currently have most relevant information for voter registration anyway, aside from an individual’s signature and party registration, according to YPPG Policy Director Max Shatan, a senior at Bard. This allows the process to involve minimal effort on the part of students.</p> <p>According to YPPG PR Director Ilana Cohen, a senior at the Beacon School in Manhattan, these foundational steps in schools would engage people in the process even more than simply allowing them to vote at 17.</p> <p>“Establishing the importance of voting in the classroom has a much greater effect than simply allowing teenagers to go out after high school and let them independently register to vote,” Cohen said.</p> <p>Prior to the bill’s introduction, Assemblymember Carroll sat down with some of the students at YPPG to gather input on a pre-registration bill already in the Assembly. According to Carroll’s chief of staff, Dan Campanelli, during this conversation Carroll suggested crafting a bill to lower the voting age to 17, which was ecstatically received by the students. Carroll subsequently worked on the bill with the students.</p> <p>“In this age of civic participation and interest, we need to make sure, in New York State, that we are teaching our young people what it means to be an active participant in their democracy,” Carroll said at Monday’s rally. “We teach young people all sorts of things. We teach them how to drive cars, we teach them how to take the SAT. We should teach them how to be active citizens and how to vote.”</p> <p>Although the bill has 23 co-sponsors in the 150-seat Assembly including Carroll, it would have to overcome the significant hurdle of passing the Republican-controlled state Senate, as well as to bypass a culture in Albany that is notoriously resistant to voting reform. Senate Republicans have been resistant to election reform measures that have passed the Assembly, like early voting and same-day registration. Younger voters typically skew Democratic, giving another reason for the GOP to oppose Carroll’s bill, especially as Republicans cling to the slimmest of majorities in the Senate, only due to several rogue Democrats who either caucus or form a coalition with the GOP. Though Carroll largely did not speak to its chances in the Senate, he is confident in its ability to pass the Assembly if it gets out of committee there.</p> <p>“If you are against more people accessing the ballot box, then guess what? You’re against democracy,” Carroll said Monday. “And maybe you should get out of the business of holding elected office, because that’s the point of it.”</p> <p>

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by Ben Brachfeld, Gotham Gazette

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</p> <p>Note - This article has been updated to clarify that YPPG's members are seniors at Bard High School, not juniors.</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/bobbt-carroll-presser.jpg" alt="bobbt carroll presser" width="600" height="484" /></p> <p>Assemblymember Robert Carroll at <span tabindex="0" data-term="goog_1899207167">Monday's</span> rally</p> <hr /> <p>On the eve of Election Day 2017, a state Assembly member from Brooklyn held a press conference focused on voter engagement and turnout, but it wasn’t in support of his own candidacy -- he’s not up for reelection until next year -- or anyone else’s. Instead, Assemblymember Robert Carroll was talking about his push to allow 17-year-olds to vote.</p> <p>In the state capital of Albany, Carroll recently introduced a bill, the Young Voter Act, that would allow 17-year-olds to cast ballots in state and local elections. The voting age is currently 18 for national elections and within New York. The legislation would also require that all students in public high schools receive at least eight hours of formal civics education, and that schools provide voter registration forms to students when they turn 17.</p> <p>The proposal, which Caroll will attempt to see moved when the Legislature returns to session in January, is aimed at improving New York’s dismal record of voter turnout (among the worst states in the country). On Monday, Carroll rallied in support of the bill outside the city’s Board of Elections with fellow Brooklyn Democratic Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon, as well as several politically engaged high school students and advocates.</p> <p>This included the leadership of the <a href="https://yppg-ny.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Youth Progressive Policy Group</a> (YPPG), a group of students whose stated mission is to “give the youth of New York a voice in our state’s political process.” The group claims that engaging people in the electoral process early will lead to a more civically active life later on, and it is thus important to not only educate students in civics at an early age, but also to empower them to be a part of it.</p> <p>YPPG’s President, Eli Frankel, a senior at Manhattan’s Bard High School, was quick to note that 17-year-olds are productive members of civic society in other ways, and that this should be extended to voting.</p> <p>“We are organizing rallies like this, we’re going out and we’re talking to people, and a lot of 17-year-olds are contributing to their communities and have responsibilities of adulthood already,” Frankel told Gotham Gazette. “They’re paying taxes, they’re driving, some can enlist in the military. So, it’s time that voting is incorporated into those responsibilities that 17-year-olds already have so they can begin participating in government in a really substantive way so their voice is heard.”</p> <p>Chris Stauffer, YPPG’s vice chair and a senior at Bard, noted that in places where voting rights were extended to high school students, the turnout results have been very promising.</p> <p>“Sixteen- to 18-year-olds in Takoma Park, Maryland actually have double the turnout than 18- to 25-year-olds,” Stauffer told Gotham Gazette of the locality that has lowered its voting age to 16. “This is without any reform to civics education.” People who are still in high school may have fewer extraneous obligations than someone in the age bracket immediately following, where many are away from home at college, allowing them to vote with regularity and consistency and setting them up for a lifetime of civic engagement.</p> <p>Lowering the voting age alone might not be enough to spur extensive turnout among high school students and young people in general, which is why the bill includes more robust, comprehensive civics education in New York schools.</p> <p>The non-profit group Generation Citizen partners with schools in cities around the country, including New York City, to provide students with an “action civics” curriculum centered around local issues, wherein students seek to enact change in specific issue areas. Generation Citizen helps fill a gap in civics education found in many schools and school systems, but it currently operates in a relatively small percentage of classrooms.</p> <p>Civics education is often lacking in schools, especially as it relates to close-to-home politics and government.</p> <p>“A lot of civics courses focus on larger, more grand themes in American history,” Frankel said. “And the civics seminars that this bill mandates all students get really directs students on the nuts and bolts of how they can go out and vote, how they can fill out a ballot correctly, how to register to vote, how to make sure their voice is heard outside of voting, how elections work, and where they can find the information about candidates and about elections that they need to go out and turn out.”</p> <p>The bill also would provide for instant registration within schools. Schools currently have most relevant information for voter registration anyway, aside from an individual’s signature and party registration, according to YPPG Policy Director Max Shatan, a senior at Bard. This allows the process to involve minimal effort on the part of students.</p> <p>According to YPPG PR Director Ilana Cohen, a senior at the Beacon School in Manhattan, these foundational steps in schools would engage people in the process even more than simply allowing them to vote at 17.</p> <p>“Establishing the importance of voting in the classroom has a much greater effect than simply allowing teenagers to go out after high school and let them independently register to vote,” Cohen said.</p> <p>Prior to the bill’s introduction, Assemblymember Carroll sat down with some of the students at YPPG to gather input on a pre-registration bill already in the Assembly. According to Carroll’s chief of staff, Dan Campanelli, during this conversation Carroll suggested crafting a bill to lower the voting age to 17, which was ecstatically received by the students. Carroll subsequently worked on the bill with the students.</p> <p>“In this age of civic participation and interest, we need to make sure, in New York State, that we are teaching our young people what it means to be an active participant in their democracy,” Carroll said at Monday’s rally. “We teach young people all sorts of things. We teach them how to drive cars, we teach them how to take the SAT. We should teach them how to be active citizens and how to vote.”</p> <p>Although the bill has 23 co-sponsors in the 150-seat Assembly including Carroll, it would have to overcome the significant hurdle of passing the Republican-controlled state Senate, as well as to bypass a culture in Albany that is notoriously resistant to voting reform. Senate Republicans have been resistant to election reform measures that have passed the Assembly, like early voting and same-day registration. Younger voters typically skew Democratic, giving another reason for the GOP to oppose Carroll’s bill, especially as Republicans cling to the slimmest of majorities in the Senate, only due to several rogue Democrats who either caucus or form a coalition with the GOP. Though Carroll largely did not speak to its chances in the Senate, he is confident in its ability to pass the Assembly if it gets out of committee there.</p> <p>“If you are against more people accessing the ballot box, then guess what? You’re against democracy,” Carroll said Monday. “And maybe you should get out of the business of holding elected office, because that’s the point of it.”</p> <p>

***
by Ben Brachfeld, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note - This article has been updated to clarify that YPPG's members are seniors at Bard High School, not juniors.</p>
Public Advocate Candidate Outlines Election Reform Agenda 2017-08-24T04:00:00+00:00 2017-08-24T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7154:public-advocate-candidate-outlines-election-reform-agenda Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/polanco_bronxnet.jpg" alt="polanco bronxnet" width="600" height="452" /></p> <p>JC Polanco on BronxNet</p> <hr /> <p>With candidates vying for votes ahead of New York City’s September primary and November general elections, many in and around campaigns know that the state’s antiquated election laws will, in part, ensure that a small percentage of potential voters will cast ballots among limited choices.</p> <p>One candidate, Juan Carlos Polanco, known as J.C., is currently the presumptive Republican nominee for Public Advocate and has released an extensive package of proposed reforms to New York voting laws.</p> <p>As a former member of the New York City Board of Elections (BOE), Polanco has had personal experience with the system that certifies candidates and runs elections. In a document provided to Gotham Gazette and subsequent phone conversation, Polanco outlined plans he believes will update, improve, and secure elections in New York through a combination of legislative changes, ballot referendums, and even changes to the state constitution.</p> <p>“We have to really take a look at our election system and we have to modernize it,” said Polanco, who is eyeing a likely general election matchup with incumbent Letitia James, a Democrat.</p> <p>Polanco <a href="http://polancofornyc.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/J.C.-Polanco-Elections-Reforms.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">is putting forward 10 proposals</a>, some of which – like expanding the BOE’s reporting in the twice-yearly Mayor’s Management Report (MMR), which details performance of city agencies based on delivery of services – would be relatively easy shifts, and others – like instituting nonpartisan elections and starting a statewide voter identification program – would be fundamental reexaminations of voting in New York that would be very difficult to enact.</p> <p>Among the former group, in addition to the MMR initiative, Polanco calls for forwarding of voter death and new address data to the BOE from city and state agencies, a new procedure for a nationwide search of the board’s executive director, and an increased budget for the agency to help it run the expanded programs.</p> <p>The latter group are likely to be much more controversial; chief among them a proposal from Polanco for a statewide “free and fair voter identification program,” which the candidate framed as a compromise for including early voting and and no-fault absentee voting.</p> <p>Polanco explained that free identifications would be arranged by the BOE using its central voter registration database and then be distributed through municipalities for free to voters who did not otherwise have a valid ID. He could not provide a cost estimate, and when asked why such a program was necessary when <a href="https://www.brennancenter.org/analysis/debunking-voter-fraud-myth" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">research</a> has shown that voter fraud is almost nonexistent, he said there were two schools of thought on voter fraud.</p> <p>“One is the [President Donald Trump] school, that 3 million people voted illegally in the election. Absolutely not. That’s an extreme view. Then we have the other extreme that no voter fraud happens. And that’s ridiculous,” Polanco said. He insisted that voters who turned up without IDs would not be disenfranchised, as they could fill out affidavit ballots – currently used by voters who arrive at polls to find they’re not on the rolls –&nbsp;that would be counted later if valid.</p> <p>Another proposed change for voters would be the early voting provisions, which would have to be approved in the unsympathetic Republican-controlled state Senate. The plan would allow New York City residents to vote one week before the election, and to vote absentee without having to prove inability to vote in person, which is currently required for absentee ballots.</p> <p>Polanco wants to change not only how New Yorkers vote but who they can vote for, by providing free legal counsel to candidates participating in the Campaign Finance Board’s public matching funds program who raise less than $10,000, and easing restrictions on ballot access for candidates.</p> <p>“Candidates are getting kicked off the ballot after spending all summer campaigning and collecting petitions, and they’re getting kicked off for the most ridiculous reasons,” said Polanco, citing issues like having a slightly incorrect petition number listed on a cover sheet. Indeed, various candidates have been kept off or taken off the ballot for multiple city races this cycle, <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7112-removal-of-last-republican-primary-opponent-could-cost-malliotakis" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">including</a> one of two final candidates for the Republican mayoral nomination.</p> <p>Unlike other populous cities like Los Angeles and Chicago, New York has a partisan election system where only voters registered to a particular party may vote in that party’s closed primary; that arrangement generally means that viable candidates tend to be selected only by the city’s registered partisans with one of the two major parties. Polanco wants to shift to a nonpartisan system, where rounds of voting, as opposed to primaries, would whittle down the candidate field.</p> <p>“If you look at our city, it’s become much more of a nonpartisan city,” he said, adding that independent, or party unaffiliated, voters “are not participating.” While unaffiliated voter enrollment has indeed <a href="http://www.elections.ny.gov/enrollmentcounty.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">grown</a> in the city over the past five years, nonpartisan voters still represent a minority (17.6%) of all registered voters. As Polanco looks ahead to the general election, he knows that there are many more unaffiliated registered voters in the city than those registered with the Republican Party (about 10.4% of all registered voters). It is those types of “independents” who helped Rudolph Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg win their mayoral terms.</p> <p>Finally, Polanco wants to address the undemocratic <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/opinion/7126-special-elections-deserve-democratic-deliberation-not-backroom-deals" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">trend</a> of elected officials stepping down from campaigns after ballot petitions have already been filed, allowing partisan county committees to pick their candidates and denying voters the opportunity to vote in an open primary. “They take it out of the hands of the voters and into the backrooms,” said Polanco of the practice. He said he would like to see, if not his ultimate goal of a nonpartisan election, then at least a mandated primary for special elections.</p> <p>Polanco suggests that gerrymandering – the practice of drawing districts to maximize or minimize a particular class of voters – is partly responsible for ensuring that Democratic candidates routinely win special elections, though in general city districts are not considered to be gerrymandered.</p> <p>Polanco acknowledged that in order to enact such an agenda, the Public Advocate – a largely ceremonial citywide elected position with little direct authority – needs to heavily rely on the bully pulpit and organizing, as opposed to hard power. Easier said than done. Polanco would be <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/6916-on-the-bus-to-albany-for-better-new-york-voting-laws" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">far</a> from the first person to go to Albany seeking voting reforms. With the Senate controlled by his GOP party-mates through a power-sharing agreement with breakaway Democrats, there has been virtually no appetite for election reform.</p> <p>He could have some ways around that, he said, such as getting proposals into a referendum to be voted on directly by voters. If the upcoming November <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/05/nyregion/constitutional-convention-voting-new-york.html?mcubz=3" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">vote</a> on whether the state will hold a constitutional convention is approved, Polanco said he would support trying to enshrine some voting reform measures into the updated constitution.</p> <p>

***
by Felipe De La Hoz, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/polanco_bronxnet.jpg" alt="polanco bronxnet" width="600" height="452" /></p> <p>JC Polanco on BronxNet</p> <hr /> <p>With candidates vying for votes ahead of New York City’s September primary and November general elections, many in and around campaigns know that the state’s antiquated election laws will, in part, ensure that a small percentage of potential voters will cast ballots among limited choices.</p> <p>One candidate, Juan Carlos Polanco, known as J.C., is currently the presumptive Republican nominee for Public Advocate and has released an extensive package of proposed reforms to New York voting laws.</p> <p>As a former member of the New York City Board of Elections (BOE), Polanco has had personal experience with the system that certifies candidates and runs elections. In a document provided to Gotham Gazette and subsequent phone conversation, Polanco outlined plans he believes will update, improve, and secure elections in New York through a combination of legislative changes, ballot referendums, and even changes to the state constitution.</p> <p>“We have to really take a look at our election system and we have to modernize it,” said Polanco, who is eyeing a likely general election matchup with incumbent Letitia James, a Democrat.</p> <p>Polanco <a href="http://polancofornyc.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/J.C.-Polanco-Elections-Reforms.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">is putting forward 10 proposals</a>, some of which – like expanding the BOE’s reporting in the twice-yearly Mayor’s Management Report (MMR), which details performance of city agencies based on delivery of services – would be relatively easy shifts, and others – like instituting nonpartisan elections and starting a statewide voter identification program – would be fundamental reexaminations of voting in New York that would be very difficult to enact.</p> <p>Among the former group, in addition to the MMR initiative, Polanco calls for forwarding of voter death and new address data to the BOE from city and state agencies, a new procedure for a nationwide search of the board’s executive director, and an increased budget for the agency to help it run the expanded programs.</p> <p>The latter group are likely to be much more controversial; chief among them a proposal from Polanco for a statewide “free and fair voter identification program,” which the candidate framed as a compromise for including early voting and and no-fault absentee voting.</p> <p>Polanco explained that free identifications would be arranged by the BOE using its central voter registration database and then be distributed through municipalities for free to voters who did not otherwise have a valid ID. He could not provide a cost estimate, and when asked why such a program was necessary when <a href="https://www.brennancenter.org/analysis/debunking-voter-fraud-myth" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">research</a> has shown that voter fraud is almost nonexistent, he said there were two schools of thought on voter fraud.</p> <p>“One is the [President Donald Trump] school, that 3 million people voted illegally in the election. Absolutely not. That’s an extreme view. Then we have the other extreme that no voter fraud happens. And that’s ridiculous,” Polanco said. He insisted that voters who turned up without IDs would not be disenfranchised, as they could fill out affidavit ballots – currently used by voters who arrive at polls to find they’re not on the rolls –&nbsp;that would be counted later if valid.</p> <p>Another proposed change for voters would be the early voting provisions, which would have to be approved in the unsympathetic Republican-controlled state Senate. The plan would allow New York City residents to vote one week before the election, and to vote absentee without having to prove inability to vote in person, which is currently required for absentee ballots.</p> <p>Polanco wants to change not only how New Yorkers vote but who they can vote for, by providing free legal counsel to candidates participating in the Campaign Finance Board’s public matching funds program who raise less than $10,000, and easing restrictions on ballot access for candidates.</p> <p>“Candidates are getting kicked off the ballot after spending all summer campaigning and collecting petitions, and they’re getting kicked off for the most ridiculous reasons,” said Polanco, citing issues like having a slightly incorrect petition number listed on a cover sheet. Indeed, various candidates have been kept off or taken off the ballot for multiple city races this cycle, <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7112-removal-of-last-republican-primary-opponent-could-cost-malliotakis" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">including</a> one of two final candidates for the Republican mayoral nomination.</p> <p>Unlike other populous cities like Los Angeles and Chicago, New York has a partisan election system where only voters registered to a particular party may vote in that party’s closed primary; that arrangement generally means that viable candidates tend to be selected only by the city’s registered partisans with one of the two major parties. Polanco wants to shift to a nonpartisan system, where rounds of voting, as opposed to primaries, would whittle down the candidate field.</p> <p>“If you look at our city, it’s become much more of a nonpartisan city,” he said, adding that independent, or party unaffiliated, voters “are not participating.” While unaffiliated voter enrollment has indeed <a href="http://www.elections.ny.gov/enrollmentcounty.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">grown</a> in the city over the past five years, nonpartisan voters still represent a minority (17.6%) of all registered voters. As Polanco looks ahead to the general election, he knows that there are many more unaffiliated registered voters in the city than those registered with the Republican Party (about 10.4% of all registered voters). It is those types of “independents” who helped Rudolph Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg win their mayoral terms.</p> <p>Finally, Polanco wants to address the undemocratic <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/opinion/7126-special-elections-deserve-democratic-deliberation-not-backroom-deals" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">trend</a> of elected officials stepping down from campaigns after ballot petitions have already been filed, allowing partisan county committees to pick their candidates and denying voters the opportunity to vote in an open primary. “They take it out of the hands of the voters and into the backrooms,” said Polanco of the practice. He said he would like to see, if not his ultimate goal of a nonpartisan election, then at least a mandated primary for special elections.</p> <p>Polanco suggests that gerrymandering – the practice of drawing districts to maximize or minimize a particular class of voters – is partly responsible for ensuring that Democratic candidates routinely win special elections, though in general city districts are not considered to be gerrymandered.</p> <p>Polanco acknowledged that in order to enact such an agenda, the Public Advocate – a largely ceremonial citywide elected position with little direct authority – needs to heavily rely on the bully pulpit and organizing, as opposed to hard power. Easier said than done. Polanco would be <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/6916-on-the-bus-to-albany-for-better-new-york-voting-laws" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">far</a> from the first person to go to Albany seeking voting reforms. With the Senate controlled by his GOP party-mates through a power-sharing agreement with breakaway Democrats, there has been virtually no appetite for election reform.</p> <p>He could have some ways around that, he said, such as getting proposals into a referendum to be voted on directly by voters. If the upcoming November <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/05/nyregion/constitutional-convention-voting-new-york.html?mcubz=3" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">vote</a> on whether the state will hold a constitutional convention is approved, Polanco said he would support trying to enshrine some voting reform measures into the updated constitution.</p> <p>

***
by Felipe De La Hoz, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
The Deadline to Register to Vote this Fall is Fast Approaching 2017-08-09T00:27:36+00:00 2017-08-09T00:27:36+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7115:the-deadline-to-register-to-vote-this-fall-is-fast-approaching-and-other-key-dates Samar Khurshid <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/32985722296_26b52ab3b7_z.jpg" alt="32985722296 26b52ab3b7 z" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>New Yorkers line up to vote (credit: Samar Khurshid/Gotham Gazette)</p> <hr /> <p>New York City has roughly 6.6 million residents of voting age but only about 4.99 million registered voters, according to rough estimates from the <a href="https://factfinder.census.gov/faces/tableservices/jsf/pages/productview.xhtml?src=CF" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">American Community Survey</a> and the state Board of Elections. The city’s municipal primary election is a little over a month away, on September 12, and <a href="https://www.elections.ny.gov/VotingDeadlines.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the deadline</a> to register to vote is approaching fast. New Yorkers have until August 18, next Friday, to register if they wish to vote in the primary. For the November 7 general election, the registration deadline is October 13.</p> <p>As of April 1, there are 4,996,975 registered voters in the city, according to the state <a href="https://www.elections.ny.gov/NYSBOE/enrollment/county/county_apr17.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Board of Elections</a>. Of those, 4,496,115 are “active” registered voters, as opposed to “inactive” voters who have failed to confirm their residence with the BOE. If inactive voters fail to vote in two consecutive federal elections, they are purged in the fifth year. About 3.1 million of the city’s registered voters are active registered Democrats and 470,195 are active registered Republicans. More than 780,000 active voters are unaffiliated with any party.</p> <p>New York holds “closed” primaries, meaning that only voters registered with a party can vote in that party’s primary. Unfortunately for those registered voters who may want to switch their party registration ahead of a primary -- which often matters significantly more in a city where Democrats outnumber Republicans 6-to-1 -- the deadline for switching party registration passed in October last year. In the April 2016 presidential primary, many New Yorkers who were unaffiliated with any party were shocked to find that they could not vote as the deadline for selecting a party for that election had passed six months before primary day.</p> <p>These harsh deadlines, and the state’s voting and electoral laws at large, have been the subject of significant criticism from elected officials and government reform advocates who argue that the state needs to rapidly modernize its laws. New York is one of only 12 states in the country that does not allow no-excuse early voting; the state also does not provide for automatic or same-day voting registration or electronic poll books.</p> <p>“In our antiquated voting system, New Yorkers need to register 25 days before they actually vote, which is another deadline that they need to keep in mind when participating in our democracy,” said Dick Dadey, executive director of Citizens Union, a good government advocacy group. “Having such a 25-day waiting period between registering and voting is a throwback to a time when there were no computers and that’s why we need to update our voting laws to allow for registration and voting to actually occur on the same day.”</p> <p>New York’s laws have also contributed in part to the state’s abysmal voter turnout rates. Only 8 percent of registered voters in New York City turned out to vote in the June 2016 congressional primary election, while 10 percent turned out for the September state and local primary. In the 2013 Democratic mayoral primary won by Mayor Bill de Blasio, only 24 percent of registered New York City Democrats turned out to vote.</p> <p style="text-align: center;">[Read: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7036-8-new-report-shows-shockingly-low-voter-turnout-in-nyc" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">8%! New Report Shows Shockingly Low Voter Turnout in NYC</a>]</p> <p>While elected officials have generally acknowledged the flawed election process in the state, there has been little concerted action. In January, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a legislative package known as the “<a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-announces-9th-proposal-2017-state-state-modernizing-voting-new-york-increase" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Democracy Project</a>” intended to modernize elections. The package included such reforms as early voting, automatic voter registration, and same-day voter registration. However, Cuomo was largely silent on the issue and voting and electoral reform were <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/6823-cuomo-punts-voting-reform-to-after-the-budget" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">ultimately left out</a> of the state budget passed in April.</p> <p>Mayor Bill de Blasio also promised an aggressive push for electoral reform before the end of the legislative session in Albany this year, but only <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7045-after-promising-more-de-blasio-explains-limited-voting-reform-push" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">followed through</a> with two telephone town halls. The mayor has <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/817-16/fact-sheet-mayor-de-blasio-calls-albany-make-elections-fairer-more-open-all#/0" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">supported</a> a slate of voting reforms including same-day registration, early voting, keeping electronic poll books, consolidating federal, state, and local primaries into a single-day primary, reformatting ballots, and pre-registration for 16- and 17-year-olds. De Blasio does not, however, support a system of open primaries, contending that “parties mean something” and non-members shouldn’t vote in a primary.</p> <p>The governor did implement a few incremental improvements last month, issuing a number of <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-takes-executive-action-expand-access-voter-registration" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">executive orders</a> to make access to voter registration easier. The orders directed all state agencies to make voter registration forms available to the public, instructed CUNY and SUNY to take steps to increase student registration and required the Department of Motor Vehicles to promote online voter registration.</p> <p>Dadey believes that the governor’s actions, while laudable, were not sufficient reforms. “It’s trying to make lemonade out of lemons that have gone bad,” he said, “but what we really need to do is get a voting system that makes voting as easy as possible in New York state because right now, New York State makes it so difficult...to register and to vote, that New York is really a passive voter suppression state.”</p> <p>New Yorkers can check their voter registration status <a href="https://voterlookup.elections.state.ny.us" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">via the </a><a href="https://voterlookup.elections.state.ny.us" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Board of Elections here</a>, and&nbsp;check all <a href="https://www.elections.ny.gov/VotingDeadlines.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">registration and voting deadlines here</a>.</p> <p>

***
by Ben Brachfeld, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note: Gotham Gazette is an independent publication of Citizens Union Foundation, sister organization of Citizens Union.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/32985722296_26b52ab3b7_z.jpg" alt="32985722296 26b52ab3b7 z" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>New Yorkers line up to vote (credit: Samar Khurshid/Gotham Gazette)</p> <hr /> <p>New York City has roughly 6.6 million residents of voting age but only about 4.99 million registered voters, according to rough estimates from the <a href="https://factfinder.census.gov/faces/tableservices/jsf/pages/productview.xhtml?src=CF" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">American Community Survey</a> and the state Board of Elections. The city’s municipal primary election is a little over a month away, on September 12, and <a href="https://www.elections.ny.gov/VotingDeadlines.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the deadline</a> to register to vote is approaching fast. New Yorkers have until August 18, next Friday, to register if they wish to vote in the primary. For the November 7 general election, the registration deadline is October 13.</p> <p>As of April 1, there are 4,996,975 registered voters in the city, according to the state <a href="https://www.elections.ny.gov/NYSBOE/enrollment/county/county_apr17.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Board of Elections</a>. Of those, 4,496,115 are “active” registered voters, as opposed to “inactive” voters who have failed to confirm their residence with the BOE. If inactive voters fail to vote in two consecutive federal elections, they are purged in the fifth year. About 3.1 million of the city’s registered voters are active registered Democrats and 470,195 are active registered Republicans. More than 780,000 active voters are unaffiliated with any party.</p> <p>New York holds “closed” primaries, meaning that only voters registered with a party can vote in that party’s primary. Unfortunately for those registered voters who may want to switch their party registration ahead of a primary -- which often matters significantly more in a city where Democrats outnumber Republicans 6-to-1 -- the deadline for switching party registration passed in October last year. In the April 2016 presidential primary, many New Yorkers who were unaffiliated with any party were shocked to find that they could not vote as the deadline for selecting a party for that election had passed six months before primary day.</p> <p>These harsh deadlines, and the state’s voting and electoral laws at large, have been the subject of significant criticism from elected officials and government reform advocates who argue that the state needs to rapidly modernize its laws. New York is one of only 12 states in the country that does not allow no-excuse early voting; the state also does not provide for automatic or same-day voting registration or electronic poll books.</p> <p>“In our antiquated voting system, New Yorkers need to register 25 days before they actually vote, which is another deadline that they need to keep in mind when participating in our democracy,” said Dick Dadey, executive director of Citizens Union, a good government advocacy group. “Having such a 25-day waiting period between registering and voting is a throwback to a time when there were no computers and that’s why we need to update our voting laws to allow for registration and voting to actually occur on the same day.”</p> <p>New York’s laws have also contributed in part to the state’s abysmal voter turnout rates. Only 8 percent of registered voters in New York City turned out to vote in the June 2016 congressional primary election, while 10 percent turned out for the September state and local primary. In the 2013 Democratic mayoral primary won by Mayor Bill de Blasio, only 24 percent of registered New York City Democrats turned out to vote.</p> <p style="text-align: center;">[Read: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7036-8-new-report-shows-shockingly-low-voter-turnout-in-nyc" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">8%! New Report Shows Shockingly Low Voter Turnout in NYC</a>]</p> <p>While elected officials have generally acknowledged the flawed election process in the state, there has been little concerted action. In January, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a legislative package known as the “<a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-announces-9th-proposal-2017-state-state-modernizing-voting-new-york-increase" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Democracy Project</a>” intended to modernize elections. The package included such reforms as early voting, automatic voter registration, and same-day voter registration. However, Cuomo was largely silent on the issue and voting and electoral reform were <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/6823-cuomo-punts-voting-reform-to-after-the-budget" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">ultimately left out</a> of the state budget passed in April.</p> <p>Mayor Bill de Blasio also promised an aggressive push for electoral reform before the end of the legislative session in Albany this year, but only <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7045-after-promising-more-de-blasio-explains-limited-voting-reform-push" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">followed through</a> with two telephone town halls. The mayor has <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/817-16/fact-sheet-mayor-de-blasio-calls-albany-make-elections-fairer-more-open-all#/0" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">supported</a> a slate of voting reforms including same-day registration, early voting, keeping electronic poll books, consolidating federal, state, and local primaries into a single-day primary, reformatting ballots, and pre-registration for 16- and 17-year-olds. De Blasio does not, however, support a system of open primaries, contending that “parties mean something” and non-members shouldn’t vote in a primary.</p> <p>The governor did implement a few incremental improvements last month, issuing a number of <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-takes-executive-action-expand-access-voter-registration" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">executive orders</a> to make access to voter registration easier. The orders directed all state agencies to make voter registration forms available to the public, instructed CUNY and SUNY to take steps to increase student registration and required the Department of Motor Vehicles to promote online voter registration.</p> <p>Dadey believes that the governor’s actions, while laudable, were not sufficient reforms. “It’s trying to make lemonade out of lemons that have gone bad,” he said, “but what we really need to do is get a voting system that makes voting as easy as possible in New York state because right now, New York State makes it so difficult...to register and to vote, that New York is really a passive voter suppression state.”</p> <p>New Yorkers can check their voter registration status <a href="https://voterlookup.elections.state.ny.us" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">via the </a><a href="https://voterlookup.elections.state.ny.us" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Board of Elections here</a>, and&nbsp;check all <a href="https://www.elections.ny.gov/VotingDeadlines.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">registration and voting deadlines here</a>.</p> <p>

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by Ben Brachfeld, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note: Gotham Gazette is an independent publication of Citizens Union Foundation, sister organization of Citizens Union.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p>
Voting Reform Advocates Say Cuomo Can Do More Through Executive Order 2017-07-26T04:00:00+00:00 2017-07-26T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7089:voting-reform-advocates-say-cuomo-can-do-more-through-executive-order Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/34717216573_c5971089a9_z.jpg" alt="Cuomo podium" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Gov. Cuomo (photo: The Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Governor Andrew Cuomo&nbsp;signed an executive order Monday expanding the list of New York State agencies required to provide voter registration assistance and creating a task force to oversee implementation of the program.</p> <p>While current state and federal law requires the forms to be available at the Department of Motor Vehicles and certain social service agencies, Cuomo’s <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/sites/governor.ny.gov/files/atoms/files/Executive_Order_169.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">new order</a> mandates that all agencies that interact with the public through professional licensing, recreational activities and other avenues carry the forms. <br /> <br />The State Agency Voter Registration Task Force -- comprised of Cuomo’s counsel Alphonso David, Jamie Rubin, his Director of State Operations, as well as a variety of agency commissioners -- will explore ways to implement the reforms laid out in the executive order. The task force will also study the use of electronic signatures and how to set up secure online voting registration systems -- similar to the one currently in place at the Department of Motor Vehicles -- through additional state agencies, according to the governor’s office.</p> <p>Advocates of voting reform, who were disappointed by the lack of meaningful electoral reform during the 2017 legislative session, were buoyed by the news, praising it as an important first step, but they also noted that a lot more can be done to increase access to registration and voting.</p> <p>“While we appreciate Governor Cuomo’s intentions, his proposed executive order will do little to&nbsp;address the issues New York State voters face on Election Day. Voter purges, strict registration&nbsp;and party change deadlines, and long lines at the polls cannot be fixed with enhanced voter&nbsp;registration,” said Jennifer Wilson of League of Women Voters in a statement.</p> <p>In pointing out that voter registration is not the main barrier to voting in New York State, Wilson noted that in 2016 voter registration reached a record high, but many newly enrolled voters faced barriers to casting their ballots.</p> <p>“While we agree that state agencies should take a more active role in voter registration, we would prefer to see an executive order that enacts early voting, alters registration deadlines, or allows for electronic poll books. The only way to truly empower voters and ensure ballot integrity is to make voting easier and more accessible,” said Wilson.</p> <p>Reinvent Albany, a government reform group, issued a statement saying the organization is “most excited by the potential to use proven technology to implement fully online voter registration in New York State. State agencies, SUNY and CUNY and Boards of Election should make voting easier by maximizing the use of secure technology.”</p> <p>“Governor Cuomo’s actions are a helpful step in what we hope is a wider push to update our archaic voting system,” said New York Civil Liberties Union head Donna Lieberman, noting the executive action’s timeliness in the wake of the Trump administration’s request for voter information through its newly created voter fraud commission, which critics say is paving the way to attempt voter suppression, and 44 states, including New York, have refused to comply with.</p> <p>The voter registration expansion ordered by Cuomo could have a significant impact in places like New York City and Westchester where a considerable number of voters do not frequently interact with the DMV, because they are not car owners or are not licensed to drive.</p> <p>A recent study by the New York Public Interest Group (NYPIRG), which has been pushing for all agencies to make voter registration forms available, found that fewer than 50 percent of people who are of voting age living in Brooklyn or the Bronx possessed driver’s licenses, while in Queens, 64 percent of those residents were licensed, and in Manhattan, 54 percent of those residents were licensed. Eighty-three percent of voting age Staten Islanders were licensed, and in Westchester, 88 percent of those residents were registered with the DMV.</p> <p>The analysis also found disparities between men and women who interacted with the DMV in New York State; there were 300,000 fewer female licensed drivers than male drivers, though there are 600,000 more women than men in the state. The NYPIRG estimates are based on 2010 U.S. Census data.</p> <p>Cuomo has also ordered SUNY and CUNY to conduct a full investigation of their campus voter registration practices in order to ensure that required steps are being taken to increase voter registration rates among young voters on the state's public college campuses. State law requires SUNY and CUNY campuses to provide all students with voter registration forms at the beginning of each school year, as well as in January of each presidential election year.</p> <p>Finally, Cuomo directed the DMV to send information referencing its online voter registration application in all emails reminding New Yorkers to renew their licenses, identification cards, and vehicle registrations, in order to maximize New Yorkers' awareness of the electronic voter registration application.</p> <p>Since the launch of online voter registration in 2012, there have been over 921,922 online voter registration applications, including 430,886 who identified themselves as first-time voters, according to Cuomo’s office.</p> <p>Reinvent Albany called on the new Cuomo task force, CUNY and SUNY to hold public hearings around improving voter registration.</p> <p>Earlier this year, as part of his State of the State and 2017 policy book, the governor proposed "The Democracy Project," a legislative package to further modernize and reform New York's voting system. The bills were comprehensive, including early voting, same-day voter registration, and automatic voter registration, but the governor was criticized for failing to see any of those measures passed during the budget or subsequent legislative session, which ended in late June.</p> <p>When asked about the failure to pass these reforms, Cuomo <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/6823-cuomo-punts-voting-reform-to-after-the-budget" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">said there was “no appetite” in the Legislature</a>.</p> <p>"There is more to do; there is no political will to do it. Otherwise we would have done it in the budget," Cuomo <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/6908-activists-lawmakers-rally-for-voting-reform-at-capitol" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">said of the reforms</a> when talking with reporters at an annual Easter open house.</p> <p>Chisun Lee, senior counsel in the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, noted that while an executive order has its limitations, the governor could direct his task force to “study the benefits of and best practices for implementing opt-out automatic registration — a reform that would move New York from the back of the pack to the vanguard of pro-voter states.” Under this program, all eligible voters would automatically be registered unless they proactively declined.</p> <p>“Today’s order is a good step forward, though more can and should be done to replace New York’s archaic, paper-based registration system with a modern, electronic one that increases efficiency and improves accuracy of our registration rolls,” Lee said in a statement.</p> <p>A spokesperson for Cuomo’s office said the governor will continue to push for the reforms introduced in his 2017 agenda, but did not elaborate about how.</p> <p>

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by Rachel Silberstein, State government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/34717216573_c5971089a9_z.jpg" alt="Cuomo podium" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Gov. Cuomo (photo: The Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Governor Andrew Cuomo&nbsp;signed an executive order Monday expanding the list of New York State agencies required to provide voter registration assistance and creating a task force to oversee implementation of the program.</p> <p>While current state and federal law requires the forms to be available at the Department of Motor Vehicles and certain social service agencies, Cuomo’s <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/sites/governor.ny.gov/files/atoms/files/Executive_Order_169.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">new order</a> mandates that all agencies that interact with the public through professional licensing, recreational activities and other avenues carry the forms. <br /> <br />The State Agency Voter Registration Task Force -- comprised of Cuomo’s counsel Alphonso David, Jamie Rubin, his Director of State Operations, as well as a variety of agency commissioners -- will explore ways to implement the reforms laid out in the executive order. The task force will also study the use of electronic signatures and how to set up secure online voting registration systems -- similar to the one currently in place at the Department of Motor Vehicles -- through additional state agencies, according to the governor’s office.</p> <p>Advocates of voting reform, who were disappointed by the lack of meaningful electoral reform during the 2017 legislative session, were buoyed by the news, praising it as an important first step, but they also noted that a lot more can be done to increase access to registration and voting.</p> <p>“While we appreciate Governor Cuomo’s intentions, his proposed executive order will do little to&nbsp;address the issues New York State voters face on Election Day. Voter purges, strict registration&nbsp;and party change deadlines, and long lines at the polls cannot be fixed with enhanced voter&nbsp;registration,” said Jennifer Wilson of League of Women Voters in a statement.</p> <p>In pointing out that voter registration is not the main barrier to voting in New York State, Wilson noted that in 2016 voter registration reached a record high, but many newly enrolled voters faced barriers to casting their ballots.</p> <p>“While we agree that state agencies should take a more active role in voter registration, we would prefer to see an executive order that enacts early voting, alters registration deadlines, or allows for electronic poll books. The only way to truly empower voters and ensure ballot integrity is to make voting easier and more accessible,” said Wilson.</p> <p>Reinvent Albany, a government reform group, issued a statement saying the organization is “most excited by the potential to use proven technology to implement fully online voter registration in New York State. State agencies, SUNY and CUNY and Boards of Election should make voting easier by maximizing the use of secure technology.”</p> <p>“Governor Cuomo’s actions are a helpful step in what we hope is a wider push to update our archaic voting system,” said New York Civil Liberties Union head Donna Lieberman, noting the executive action’s timeliness in the wake of the Trump administration’s request for voter information through its newly created voter fraud commission, which critics say is paving the way to attempt voter suppression, and 44 states, including New York, have refused to comply with.</p> <p>The voter registration expansion ordered by Cuomo could have a significant impact in places like New York City and Westchester where a considerable number of voters do not frequently interact with the DMV, because they are not car owners or are not licensed to drive.</p> <p>A recent study by the New York Public Interest Group (NYPIRG), which has been pushing for all agencies to make voter registration forms available, found that fewer than 50 percent of people who are of voting age living in Brooklyn or the Bronx possessed driver’s licenses, while in Queens, 64 percent of those residents were licensed, and in Manhattan, 54 percent of those residents were licensed. Eighty-three percent of voting age Staten Islanders were licensed, and in Westchester, 88 percent of those residents were registered with the DMV.</p> <p>The analysis also found disparities between men and women who interacted with the DMV in New York State; there were 300,000 fewer female licensed drivers than male drivers, though there are 600,000 more women than men in the state. The NYPIRG estimates are based on 2010 U.S. Census data.</p> <p>Cuomo has also ordered SUNY and CUNY to conduct a full investigation of their campus voter registration practices in order to ensure that required steps are being taken to increase voter registration rates among young voters on the state's public college campuses. State law requires SUNY and CUNY campuses to provide all students with voter registration forms at the beginning of each school year, as well as in January of each presidential election year.</p> <p>Finally, Cuomo directed the DMV to send information referencing its online voter registration application in all emails reminding New Yorkers to renew their licenses, identification cards, and vehicle registrations, in order to maximize New Yorkers' awareness of the electronic voter registration application.</p> <p>Since the launch of online voter registration in 2012, there have been over 921,922 online voter registration applications, including 430,886 who identified themselves as first-time voters, according to Cuomo’s office.</p> <p>Reinvent Albany called on the new Cuomo task force, CUNY and SUNY to hold public hearings around improving voter registration.</p> <p>Earlier this year, as part of his State of the State and 2017 policy book, the governor proposed "The Democracy Project," a legislative package to further modernize and reform New York's voting system. The bills were comprehensive, including early voting, same-day voter registration, and automatic voter registration, but the governor was criticized for failing to see any of those measures passed during the budget or subsequent legislative session, which ended in late June.</p> <p>When asked about the failure to pass these reforms, Cuomo <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/6823-cuomo-punts-voting-reform-to-after-the-budget" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">said there was “no appetite” in the Legislature</a>.</p> <p>"There is more to do; there is no political will to do it. Otherwise we would have done it in the budget," Cuomo <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/6908-activists-lawmakers-rally-for-voting-reform-at-capitol" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">said of the reforms</a> when talking with reporters at an annual Easter open house.</p> <p>Chisun Lee, senior counsel in the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, noted that while an executive order has its limitations, the governor could direct his task force to “study the benefits of and best practices for implementing opt-out automatic registration — a reform that would move New York from the back of the pack to the vanguard of pro-voter states.” Under this program, all eligible voters would automatically be registered unless they proactively declined.</p> <p>“Today’s order is a good step forward, though more can and should be done to replace New York’s archaic, paper-based registration system with a modern, electronic one that increases efficiency and improves accuracy of our registration rolls,” Lee said in a statement.</p> <p>A spokesperson for Cuomo’s office said the governor will continue to push for the reforms introduced in his 2017 agenda, but did not elaborate about how.</p> <p>

***
by Rachel Silberstein, State government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
After Promising More, De Blasio Explains Limited Voting Reform Push 2017-07-04T04:00:00+00:00 2017-07-04T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7045:after-promising-more-de-blasio-explains-limited-voting-reform-push Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/30233163884_73022f4407_z.jpg" alt="de Blasio voting distance" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p>De Blasio voting (photo: Ed Reed/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>On May 31 Mayor Bill de Blasio said that he and partners were “about to launch a major effort” to change state laws governing elections and voting in New York. ”I think people really want electoral reform in this state,” de Blasio told Gotham Gazette at an unrelated press conference. “And there’s a chance to do it, and it’s about creating the pressure needed to achieve it. So, we’re going to be doing a lot in the next few weeks on it.”<br /><br />In the subsequent days, de Blasio led two telephone town halls on voting reform, but did nothing else publicly. The regularly scheduled legislative session ended in Albany on June 21 with none of the mayor’s desired reforms -- like early voting and same-day voter registration -- passed through both houses of the state Legislature.<br /><br />A special session called the following week by Governor Andrew Cuomo yielded deals on several issues, including an extension of the expiring mayoral control of New York City schools, but nothing related to electoral reform was on the table, much less in <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7042-mayoral-control-extended-in-special-session-with-usual-albany-process" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the final package</a> that was passed on June 29.<br /><br />On May 31, Gotham Gazette asked de Blasio what had happened to his previously promised efforts on voting reform. The mayor responded, “Well, you know plenty about Albany, and this is when things start to happen.” He then promised a campaign.<br /><br />On June 30, Gotham Gazette asked de Blasio what had happened to the “major effort” he had pledged given only the two tele-town halls. <br /><br />“Well, I thought it was the beginning of a major effort, and we found quickly, you saw the session was pretty unusual,” de Blasio said during an open question-and-answer session after discussing July 4th-related public safety matters at One Police Plaza. “It was not like any session I can remember. The leaders -- you remember the day the leaders met for the first time, it was astoundingly late in the session. And for a long time, including as recently as Wednesday morning, we thought that very skinny bill that the governor put forward was all that was gonna get through,” de Blasio said, referring to the initial special session proposal Cuomo had made to reach a deal on mayoral control. The package passed wound up being more expansive, including a variety of legislation and funding priorities, but no voting reforms.<br /><br />The mayor continued: “So, we started an effort that I thought had a real chance to make an impact. We found a situation where the Legislature and the governor were expecting a very limited session. I’m still glad we pushed for it, and we’re gonna be pushing a lot more because it has to happen. To me, it’s an inevitability. Everything in that Assembly package will become the law in New York State, it’s just a matter when. But this was -- I was surprised at how this whole session evolved. I don’t think I can think of anything exactly like it.”<br /><br />The Assembly package the mayor referred to includes a slate of efforts to make voting easier in New York, which consistently ranks toward the bottom in voter participation among states. The electoral agenda that has passed in the Democratically-controlled Assembly but stalled in the Republican-controlled state Senate includes early voting, same-day registration, an expansion of “automatic” voter registration, combining primary days, electronic poll books, and more.<br /><br />The agenda is one supported at least nominally by Cuomo, who included a similar electoral reform package in his 2017 State of the State policy book. The governor did nothing publicly, however, to push electoral reform. In April, he acknowledged nothing on the subject had made it into the new state budget, which included a good deal of new policy that the governor had made priority. In June, after the regularly scheduled session, Cuomo was asked about voting reform at a press conference and said to put it in “the loss column,” a reference to a prior comment he made about his wins and losses for the year. (The governor explained he had far more wins than losses this year.)<br /><br />“[T]here wasn't extensive discussion on it” among himself and legislative leaders, Cuomo admitted June 22, “but it has been opposed for many, many years vociferously, so I wasn't surprised either.” The governor was not explicit about where the opposition has come from, though movement on the bills, or lack thereof, and comments from Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan have made clear the Senate has bottled up the legislation. Heastie and his Democratic majority have not necessarily made electoral reform a high priority, however.<br /><br />While de Blasio has also put limited public weight behind electoral reform, he did hold the two tele-town halls, on June 7 and 14, encouraging New Yorkers to call their state representatives to lobby for reform. On the second call, for which he was joined by former Ohio State Senator Nina Turner and Jason Kander, former Missouri secretary of state and current president of Let America Vote, the mayor said there were 15,000 people participating.<br /><br />Back in January, de Blasio testified before a state legislative hearing on Cuomo’s executive budget proposal. “I am obviously pleased to see election reform in the executive budget.,” de Blasio said in his opening testimony. “I want to thank the Assembly for passing an election reform package last year, including early voting, which is absolutely necessary given the realities of modern lives and people's’ schedule. Early voting and same-day registration are fundamental reforms we need to improve the democratic process.”</p> <p>

***
by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/30233163884_73022f4407_z.jpg" alt="de Blasio voting distance" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p>De Blasio voting (photo: Ed Reed/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>On May 31 Mayor Bill de Blasio said that he and partners were “about to launch a major effort” to change state laws governing elections and voting in New York. ”I think people really want electoral reform in this state,” de Blasio told Gotham Gazette at an unrelated press conference. “And there’s a chance to do it, and it’s about creating the pressure needed to achieve it. So, we’re going to be doing a lot in the next few weeks on it.”<br /><br />In the subsequent days, de Blasio led two telephone town halls on voting reform, but did nothing else publicly. The regularly scheduled legislative session ended in Albany on June 21 with none of the mayor’s desired reforms -- like early voting and same-day voter registration -- passed through both houses of the state Legislature.<br /><br />A special session called the following week by Governor Andrew Cuomo yielded deals on several issues, including an extension of the expiring mayoral control of New York City schools, but nothing related to electoral reform was on the table, much less in <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7042-mayoral-control-extended-in-special-session-with-usual-albany-process" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the final package</a> that was passed on June 29.<br /><br />On May 31, Gotham Gazette asked de Blasio what had happened to his previously promised efforts on voting reform. The mayor responded, “Well, you know plenty about Albany, and this is when things start to happen.” He then promised a campaign.<br /><br />On June 30, Gotham Gazette asked de Blasio what had happened to the “major effort” he had pledged given only the two tele-town halls. <br /><br />“Well, I thought it was the beginning of a major effort, and we found quickly, you saw the session was pretty unusual,” de Blasio said during an open question-and-answer session after discussing July 4th-related public safety matters at One Police Plaza. “It was not like any session I can remember. The leaders -- you remember the day the leaders met for the first time, it was astoundingly late in the session. And for a long time, including as recently as Wednesday morning, we thought that very skinny bill that the governor put forward was all that was gonna get through,” de Blasio said, referring to the initial special session proposal Cuomo had made to reach a deal on mayoral control. The package passed wound up being more expansive, including a variety of legislation and funding priorities, but no voting reforms.<br /><br />The mayor continued: “So, we started an effort that I thought had a real chance to make an impact. We found a situation where the Legislature and the governor were expecting a very limited session. I’m still glad we pushed for it, and we’re gonna be pushing a lot more because it has to happen. To me, it’s an inevitability. Everything in that Assembly package will become the law in New York State, it’s just a matter when. But this was -- I was surprised at how this whole session evolved. I don’t think I can think of anything exactly like it.”<br /><br />The Assembly package the mayor referred to includes a slate of efforts to make voting easier in New York, which consistently ranks toward the bottom in voter participation among states. The electoral agenda that has passed in the Democratically-controlled Assembly but stalled in the Republican-controlled state Senate includes early voting, same-day registration, an expansion of “automatic” voter registration, combining primary days, electronic poll books, and more.<br /><br />The agenda is one supported at least nominally by Cuomo, who included a similar electoral reform package in his 2017 State of the State policy book. The governor did nothing publicly, however, to push electoral reform. In April, he acknowledged nothing on the subject had made it into the new state budget, which included a good deal of new policy that the governor had made priority. In June, after the regularly scheduled session, Cuomo was asked about voting reform at a press conference and said to put it in “the loss column,” a reference to a prior comment he made about his wins and losses for the year. (The governor explained he had far more wins than losses this year.)<br /><br />“[T]here wasn't extensive discussion on it” among himself and legislative leaders, Cuomo admitted June 22, “but it has been opposed for many, many years vociferously, so I wasn't surprised either.” The governor was not explicit about where the opposition has come from, though movement on the bills, or lack thereof, and comments from Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan have made clear the Senate has bottled up the legislation. Heastie and his Democratic majority have not necessarily made electoral reform a high priority, however.<br /><br />While de Blasio has also put limited public weight behind electoral reform, he did hold the two tele-town halls, on June 7 and 14, encouraging New Yorkers to call their state representatives to lobby for reform. On the second call, for which he was joined by former Ohio State Senator Nina Turner and Jason Kander, former Missouri secretary of state and current president of Let America Vote, the mayor said there were 15,000 people participating.<br /><br />Back in January, de Blasio testified before a state legislative hearing on Cuomo’s executive budget proposal. “I am obviously pleased to see election reform in the executive budget.,” de Blasio said in his opening testimony. “I want to thank the Assembly for passing an election reform package last year, including early voting, which is absolutely necessary given the realities of modern lives and people's’ schedule. Early voting and same-day registration are fundamental reforms we need to improve the democratic process.”</p> <p>

***
by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
Focused on Fighting Trump, is Schneiderman Looking Away from Albany Reform? 2017-06-27T04:00:00+00:00 2017-06-27T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7035:focused-on-fighting-trump-schneiderman-looks-away-from-albany-reform Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/ag_schneiderman_via_schneiderman.jpg" alt="ag schneiderman via schneiderman" width="640" height="427" /></p> <p>AG Eric Schneiderman (photo: @Schneiderman)</p> <hr /> <p>New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has quickly become one of President Donald Trump’s leading opponents, using the levers of his office to litigate against Trump’s policies, and has put New York at the forefront of efforts to resist the new Republican administration’s agenda.</p> <p>Speaking at a Tuesday breakfast event hosted by the Association For A Better New York (ABNY), Schneiderman, a second-term Democrat, discussed his role in the Trump era, which has made his focus much more on Washington, D.C. than Albany, New York, the state capital where Schneiderman has worked as a state senator and sought reforms to the state’s election and government ethics laws.</p> <p>The focus of the ABNY event Tuesday morning was Schneiderman’s approach to Trump. The attorney general emphasized New York’s fundamental principle of openness and reiterated his pledge to fight President Trump’s travel ban on people from six Muslim-majority countries. “New York values of mutual respect, pluralism, and common sense are more important than ever,” he said to a room of around 250 people at the Sheraton Hotel in Midtown Manhattan. “As long as I am your Attorney General, I promise to do everything I can to stand up for those values and defend all the people I represent &nbsp;in the challenges we face together.”</p> <p>He also described his approach toward the legislation that seeks to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which may soon receive a vote in the U.S. Senate. “If the version of the health care bill proposed last week ever becomes law, I’ve promised to go to court to challenge it – and protect New Yorkers from these wrongheaded and unconstitutional provisions,” he said.</p> <p>In a lighthearted moment, Schneiderman described the experience of quarreling with Trump over the years, even before Trump ran for President. In 2013, Schneiderman filed suit against the real estate mogul for his fraudulent for-profit college Trump University. The president settled in 2016 for $25 million.</p> <p>Schneiderman noted he has learned to ignore Twitter, a favored Trump medium that the president has long-used to attack Schneiderman and others, and how Trump consistently pulls out all the stops against people when he feels threatened by them. Schneiderman read aloud a few insulting <a href="https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/482153112279724032" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">tweets</a> that Trump has sent about him over the years. The attorney general also recalled when the New York Observer, owned by Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, published a cover depicting Schneiderman as “Clockwork Eric,” likening him to the 1971 movie “A Clockwork Orange” character Alex DeLarge, who is a violent rapist. The paper published an accompanying <a href="http://observer.com/2014/02/the-politics-and-power-of-a-g-schneiderman/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">feature</a> on Schneiderman that accused him of “political opportunism,” “vindictiveness,” and cast doubt on his investigation into Trump.</p> <p>When he did mention more local state affairs, Schneiderman cited passage of legislation to end the so-called gun show loophole and development of a drug tracking system, along with changing his office’s mentality. “Consistent with my goal of keeping New York competitive, we have shifted the culture of our office by making it clear that lawyers on my team don’t just get credit for catching bad guys; they also get credit for helping good guys,” said Schneiderman, who succeeded Governor Andrew Cuomo as attorney general.</p> <p>State government was a distant second to national matters as they relate to New York, in keeping with the event’s intended purpose. The media advisory announcing the event stated Schneiderman was expected to “discuss his work fighting Trump Administration policies that he believes threaten New Yorkers and the rule of law. Attorney General Schneiderman will detail his office’s efforts on both fronts and articulate his priorities for the future in the fight to defend New York.”</p> <p>While it made sense for Schneiderman to omit state government ethics and voting reform from his remarks, the attorney general was holding his first public speaking event since the end of the scheduled legislative session in Albany, which included none of the reforms Schneiderman has proposed. Tuesday’s event was representative of a shift in focus by Schneiderman away from state reforms and toward taking on federal government policies with the aim of fighting for New Yorkers against a new presidential administration and Republican-controlled Congress.&nbsp;</p> <p>A spokesperson for Attorney General Schneiderman disputed this observation. “He can walk and chew gum at the same time, and that’s exactly what he’s been doing,” wrote Amy Spitalnick, the Schneiderman spokesperson, in an email to Gotham Gazette. But, while Schneiderman does oversee a large and busy office, the attorney general has been quiet regarding state reforms in recent months as major decisions are made in the state capital. Schneiderman's office explained that representatives from the AG's office have met with legislative leaders, relevant committee chairs, and advocates about Schneiderman's proposals.</p> <p>A review of Schneiderman’s May and June <a href="https://ag.ny.gov/press-releases" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">press releases</a> show that as the legislative year in Albany headed toward underwhelmingly conclusion, the attorney general spoke out against President Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Accords; filed suit against Trump regarding energy efficiency standards; challenged the EPA on toxic pesticides; criticized Secretary of Education Betsy Devos over discontinuing student loan forgiveness policies; announced opposition to potential regulatory rollback in Senate legislation; voiced concern over infringement upon New Yorker’s contraceptive rights by Trump administration policies; and reaffirmed New York’s commitment to protecting so-called sanctuary city statuses; along with other pushbacks against policies originating in Washington.</p> <p>Schneiderman’s main public efforts have been to, as he sees it, protect New Yorkers from the new president’s policies, many of which he believes threaten New Yorkers rights and needed services. Schneiderman was the subject of profiles in major outlets such as Politico and New York Magazine, both focused on his efforts against Trump. Meanwhile, Schneiderman hired Revolution Messaging, Senator Bernie Sanders’ digital consulting group in April , to work on his political team -- the AG is expected to seek a third term in 2018, but is also regarded as a certain gubernatorial candidate when Cuomo is no longer in the picture.</p> <p>But the attorney general’s office insists that Schneiderman has been attentive to Albany-related efforts. “Anyone who follows the AG’s work knows he’s been very engaged in the fight for voting and ethics reform, including proposing his own legislative packages on both issues,” the Spitalnick wrote. “That’s in addition to his push to strengthen tenant protections, protect cost-free access to birth control, and more.”</p> <p>While he has been quiet on both recently, Schneiderman has pushed election and government ethics reforms. In February, he introduced the New York Votes Act, a bill that would institute automatic and same-day voting registration along with early voting. On ethics reform for the scandal-plagued state government, in May 2015 Schneiderman introduced legislation that would give investigatory powers to the attorney general to prosecute corruption by officeholders, ban lawmakers from receiving outside income, and make campaign donation laws more restrictive. None of Schneiderman’s proposals on these two fronts have made it into law, opposed at various turns by the powers that be in Albany, including Governor Andrew Cuomo, the Democratic majority in the Assembly, and the Republican-led majority in the Senate.</p> <p>Asked for recent examples of how Schneiderman has pushed his electoral and ethics proposals, or for any plans to get them moving, the AG’s office pointed to examples in the more distant past. Schneiderman does not appear to have held a public event, issued a press release, or written an op-ed on either voting or ethics reform since February, when he released his electoral reform package. The state budget was passed in early April and the scheduled legislative session ended last week, both without any of these reforms.</p> <p>Speaking with reporters following his Tuesday ABNY speech, the attorney general said the legislative session ending without ethics reform was a missed opportunity. “I think that it is essential that the state government show an ability to, and a willingness to, reform,” he said in response to a question from Gotham Gazette. “Otherwise, we're just going to have more scandals and a further erosion of public confidence.”</p> <p>“The willingness to get it done is there and I think there is an unfortunate tendency to cling to the status quo,” he added, though he did not cite evidence of the existence of any “willingness” and his spokesperson did not explain what he meant when asked in a follow-up email.</p> <p>Corruption has plagued New York’s capital for years, with legislator after legislator removed from office because of ethical scandal. Recently, former State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos were convicted separately on public corruption charges. Not long after that, charges were announced against nine associates of and donors to Gov. Cuomo in a massive alleged bid-rigging scandal. In September 2016, Schneiderman’s office <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/23/nyregion/cuomo-former-aides-charges.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">brought charges </a>against two former Cuomo aides along with state official Alain Kaloyeros as part of that scandal. In March, Schneiderman’s office also <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/23/nyregion/robert-ortt-george-maziarz.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">charged</a> state Senator Robert Ortt and former state Senator George Maziarz for embezzling funds, though the charges against Ortt were dismissed by a judge on Tuesday.</p> <p>Despite months of inaction on election and ethics reforms in Albany, Schneiderman said Tuesday he is hopeful. “I do really believe that we are at a point where the public is demanding reform and there are enough legislators who get the need and are willing to get a step towards it,” he said in the gaggle. “So I think that's something which should be coming.”</p> <p> </p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/ag_schneiderman_via_schneiderman.jpg" alt="ag schneiderman via schneiderman" width="640" height="427" /></p> <p>AG Eric Schneiderman (photo: @Schneiderman)</p> <hr /> <p>New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has quickly become one of President Donald Trump’s leading opponents, using the levers of his office to litigate against Trump’s policies, and has put New York at the forefront of efforts to resist the new Republican administration’s agenda.</p> <p>Speaking at a Tuesday breakfast event hosted by the Association For A Better New York (ABNY), Schneiderman, a second-term Democrat, discussed his role in the Trump era, which has made his focus much more on Washington, D.C. than Albany, New York, the state capital where Schneiderman has worked as a state senator and sought reforms to the state’s election and government ethics laws.</p> <p>The focus of the ABNY event Tuesday morning was Schneiderman’s approach to Trump. The attorney general emphasized New York’s fundamental principle of openness and reiterated his pledge to fight President Trump’s travel ban on people from six Muslim-majority countries. “New York values of mutual respect, pluralism, and common sense are more important than ever,” he said to a room of around 250 people at the Sheraton Hotel in Midtown Manhattan. “As long as I am your Attorney General, I promise to do everything I can to stand up for those values and defend all the people I represent &nbsp;in the challenges we face together.”</p> <p>He also described his approach toward the legislation that seeks to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which may soon receive a vote in the U.S. Senate. “If the version of the health care bill proposed last week ever becomes law, I’ve promised to go to court to challenge it – and protect New Yorkers from these wrongheaded and unconstitutional provisions,” he said.</p> <p>In a lighthearted moment, Schneiderman described the experience of quarreling with Trump over the years, even before Trump ran for President. In 2013, Schneiderman filed suit against the real estate mogul for his fraudulent for-profit college Trump University. The president settled in 2016 for $25 million.</p> <p>Schneiderman noted he has learned to ignore Twitter, a favored Trump medium that the president has long-used to attack Schneiderman and others, and how Trump consistently pulls out all the stops against people when he feels threatened by them. Schneiderman read aloud a few insulting <a href="https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/482153112279724032" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">tweets</a> that Trump has sent about him over the years. The attorney general also recalled when the New York Observer, owned by Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, published a cover depicting Schneiderman as “Clockwork Eric,” likening him to the 1971 movie “A Clockwork Orange” character Alex DeLarge, who is a violent rapist. The paper published an accompanying <a href="http://observer.com/2014/02/the-politics-and-power-of-a-g-schneiderman/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">feature</a> on Schneiderman that accused him of “political opportunism,” “vindictiveness,” and cast doubt on his investigation into Trump.</p> <p>When he did mention more local state affairs, Schneiderman cited passage of legislation to end the so-called gun show loophole and development of a drug tracking system, along with changing his office’s mentality. “Consistent with my goal of keeping New York competitive, we have shifted the culture of our office by making it clear that lawyers on my team don’t just get credit for catching bad guys; they also get credit for helping good guys,” said Schneiderman, who succeeded Governor Andrew Cuomo as attorney general.</p> <p>State government was a distant second to national matters as they relate to New York, in keeping with the event’s intended purpose. The media advisory announcing the event stated Schneiderman was expected to “discuss his work fighting Trump Administration policies that he believes threaten New Yorkers and the rule of law. Attorney General Schneiderman will detail his office’s efforts on both fronts and articulate his priorities for the future in the fight to defend New York.”</p> <p>While it made sense for Schneiderman to omit state government ethics and voting reform from his remarks, the attorney general was holding his first public speaking event since the end of the scheduled legislative session in Albany, which included none of the reforms Schneiderman has proposed. Tuesday’s event was representative of a shift in focus by Schneiderman away from state reforms and toward taking on federal government policies with the aim of fighting for New Yorkers against a new presidential administration and Republican-controlled Congress.&nbsp;</p> <p>A spokesperson for Attorney General Schneiderman disputed this observation. “He can walk and chew gum at the same time, and that’s exactly what he’s been doing,” wrote Amy Spitalnick, the Schneiderman spokesperson, in an email to Gotham Gazette. But, while Schneiderman does oversee a large and busy office, the attorney general has been quiet regarding state reforms in recent months as major decisions are made in the state capital. Schneiderman's office explained that representatives from the AG's office have met with legislative leaders, relevant committee chairs, and advocates about Schneiderman's proposals.</p> <p>A review of Schneiderman’s May and June <a href="https://ag.ny.gov/press-releases" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">press releases</a> show that as the legislative year in Albany headed toward underwhelmingly conclusion, the attorney general spoke out against President Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Accords; filed suit against Trump regarding energy efficiency standards; challenged the EPA on toxic pesticides; criticized Secretary of Education Betsy Devos over discontinuing student loan forgiveness policies; announced opposition to potential regulatory rollback in Senate legislation; voiced concern over infringement upon New Yorker’s contraceptive rights by Trump administration policies; and reaffirmed New York’s commitment to protecting so-called sanctuary city statuses; along with other pushbacks against policies originating in Washington.</p> <p>Schneiderman’s main public efforts have been to, as he sees it, protect New Yorkers from the new president’s policies, many of which he believes threaten New Yorkers rights and needed services. Schneiderman was the subject of profiles in major outlets such as Politico and New York Magazine, both focused on his efforts against Trump. Meanwhile, Schneiderman hired Revolution Messaging, Senator Bernie Sanders’ digital consulting group in April , to work on his political team -- the AG is expected to seek a third term in 2018, but is also regarded as a certain gubernatorial candidate when Cuomo is no longer in the picture.</p> <p>But the attorney general’s office insists that Schneiderman has been attentive to Albany-related efforts. “Anyone who follows the AG’s work knows he’s been very engaged in the fight for voting and ethics reform, including proposing his own legislative packages on both issues,” the Spitalnick wrote. “That’s in addition to his push to strengthen tenant protections, protect cost-free access to birth control, and more.”</p> <p>While he has been quiet on both recently, Schneiderman has pushed election and government ethics reforms. In February, he introduced the New York Votes Act, a bill that would institute automatic and same-day voting registration along with early voting. On ethics reform for the scandal-plagued state government, in May 2015 Schneiderman introduced legislation that would give investigatory powers to the attorney general to prosecute corruption by officeholders, ban lawmakers from receiving outside income, and make campaign donation laws more restrictive. None of Schneiderman’s proposals on these two fronts have made it into law, opposed at various turns by the powers that be in Albany, including Governor Andrew Cuomo, the Democratic majority in the Assembly, and the Republican-led majority in the Senate.</p> <p>Asked for recent examples of how Schneiderman has pushed his electoral and ethics proposals, or for any plans to get them moving, the AG’s office pointed to examples in the more distant past. Schneiderman does not appear to have held a public event, issued a press release, or written an op-ed on either voting or ethics reform since February, when he released his electoral reform package. The state budget was passed in early April and the scheduled legislative session ended last week, both without any of these reforms.</p> <p>Speaking with reporters following his Tuesday ABNY speech, the attorney general said the legislative session ending without ethics reform was a missed opportunity. “I think that it is essential that the state government show an ability to, and a willingness to, reform,” he said in response to a question from Gotham Gazette. “Otherwise, we're just going to have more scandals and a further erosion of public confidence.”</p> <p>“The willingness to get it done is there and I think there is an unfortunate tendency to cling to the status quo,” he added, though he did not cite evidence of the existence of any “willingness” and his spokesperson did not explain what he meant when asked in a follow-up email.</p> <p>Corruption has plagued New York’s capital for years, with legislator after legislator removed from office because of ethical scandal. Recently, former State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos were convicted separately on public corruption charges. Not long after that, charges were announced against nine associates of and donors to Gov. Cuomo in a massive alleged bid-rigging scandal. In September 2016, Schneiderman’s office <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/23/nyregion/cuomo-former-aides-charges.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">brought charges </a>against two former Cuomo aides along with state official Alain Kaloyeros as part of that scandal. In March, Schneiderman’s office also <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/23/nyregion/robert-ortt-george-maziarz.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">charged</a> state Senator Robert Ortt and former state Senator George Maziarz for embezzling funds, though the charges against Ortt were dismissed by a judge on Tuesday.</p> <p>Despite months of inaction on election and ethics reforms in Albany, Schneiderman said Tuesday he is hopeful. “I do really believe that we are at a point where the public is demanding reform and there are enough legislators who get the need and are willing to get a step towards it,” he said in the gaggle. “So I think that's something which should be coming.”</p> <p> </p>