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 2017-12-14T18:51:42+00:00 Webmaster webmaster@gothamgazette.com 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>
Voters Guide for the City's 2017 General Election 2017-10-25T04:00:00+00:00 2017-10-25T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7274:voters-guide-for-the-2017-city-general-election Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/29371579580_504746f976_z_2.jpg" alt="de Blasio voting election" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>(photo:&nbsp;Michael Appleton/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>ELECTION DAY IS TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 7 -- BE READY TO VOTE!</p> <p>
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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/29371579580_504746f976_z_2.jpg" alt="de Blasio voting election" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>(photo:&nbsp;Michael Appleton/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>ELECTION DAY IS TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 7 -- BE READY TO VOTE!</p> <p>
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It’s Not Too Late to Start Paying Attention to the City Elections - Here’s How 2017-10-15T04:00:00+00:00 2017-10-15T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7253:it-s-not-too-late-to-start-paying-attention-to-the-city-elections-here-s-how Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/reset_1/17358963_1632433823439083_8347528747947462769_o.jpg" alt="NYC Votes voters New York City" width="600" height="600" /></p> <p>(image: NYC Votes)</p> <hr /> <p>If you’re one of many New Yorkers who have not been paying much attention to this year’s city elections, don’t worry, there’s still time to get up to speed and make informed decisions on Election Day, November 7.</p> <p>Tuesday, October 24, marked two weeks until that opportunity to vote, and after only about 14% of registered Democrats went to the polls in the September mayoral primary, it would be good for the city’s civic health if more voters cast ballots in November. (About 24% of city voters cast ballots in the last mayoral general election, in November 2013.)</p> <p>Voter turnout and election results send significant messages to our elected officials, and also to the candidates who come up short. Campaigns, consultants, candidates, and elected officials -- whether the mayor or your borough president, local City Council member or others -- know who votes and often pay attention to what voters think. Campaigns target and listen to people who have voted in the past. (One way to guarantee that your interests, preferences, and beliefs are not paid attention to is to continue not paying attention to city politics.)</p> <p>Even if you don’t have much time to dedicate to studying up, three weeks is still enough to get to know more about the candidates running for those city positions being elected this year, as well as the three questions that will be on the back of the ballot. This is direct democracy in action, and those who participate help keep our political leaders accountable, while also helping decide the direction the city heads for years to come.</p> <p>Local elected officials have many powers that directly influence everyday life, the way city services run, and the future of the city. City Council members are the local-most elected official and exist to represent you and your neighborhood -- on everything from street safety to school quality to small business policy to garbage pick-up to oversight of the NYPD, and much, much more. Along with every seat in the 51-member City Council, also on the ballot in November are the three citywide positions of Mayor, Comptroller, and Public Advocate, each Borough President position, several judicial posts, and the District Attorneys of Brooklyn and Manhattan.</p> <p>Then, <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7108-there-will-be-three-big-questions-on-your-ballot-in-november" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">there are the three ballot questions</a> that each allow for a “yes” or “no” answer. Voters get to help decide whether 1) New York will hold a state constitutional convention, 2) corrupt politicians lose their pensions, and 3) small amounts of preserved upstate land can be used for vital infrastructure projects and be replaced by other new land.</p> <p>Unfortunately, there isn’t that much competition on the ballot, largely the case because it is the general election in a city home to many, many more Democrats than Republicans or members of other parties. After Democrats, the second largest group of registered voters in New York City is actually those who do not belong to any political party, and Republicans are the third largest group. Democratic primaries are often where the most action is -- something to keep in mind for the future. [<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/6676-candidates-for-2017-city-elections-mayor-city-council-comptroller" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Here’s a full list of candidates</a> for all the city government posts on the ballot in November.]</p> <p>But for now, it is October, and you will have several choices to make if you choose to vote next month. There is competition for each of the three citywide positions, and plenty to brush up on with the candidates for those posts. For each, a Democratic incumbent is seeking a second term.</p> <p>There is also some competition for most of the other positions, though in many City Council races, the Democratic nominee is facing only nominal opposition. Still, it is important to look into the candidates and vote, helping to send a message, whether you are behind the eventual winner or not. Even incumbent City Council who win reelection pay attention to their vote totals and win margin, noticing if they have more work to do to win over constituents. Broadly speaking, there are <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7217-10-races-more-to-watch-in-the-general-election" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">about ten City Council races</a> that are especially worth paying attention to, but all that really matters for most voters is who is running in your district.</p> <p>If you want to start paying attention to this city election cycle, here are a few ways to get started:</p> <p>-<a href="https://voterlookup.elections.state.ny.us/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Check your voter registration status</a>. If you’re not registered to vote it is now too late to register to vote this November (but you should still register and get to know what’s happening this year, then get ready to vote in state level elections in 2018.)</p> <p>-Start researching the candidates for Mayor. There are seven: Democrat Bill de Blasio, Republican Nicole Malliotakis, independent Bo Dietl, Reform Party nominee Sal Albanese, Green Party nominee Akeem Browder, Libertarian Party nominee Aaron Commey, and independent Michael Tolkin.</p> <p>-Mark your calendar for Wednesday, November 1, which will be the second of two mayoral candidate debates. It is not yet clear which candidates beyond de Blasio and Malliotakis will be on the stage. It will be broadcast at 7 p.m. that night on CBS television.</p> <p>(You can catch up on the first debate by reading <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7242-de-blasio-malliotakis-dietl-engage-in-raucous-mayoral-debate" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">our recap here</a>, listening to <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7243-max-murphy-analyzing-the-first-general-election-mayoral-debate" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">this recap and analysis from our podcast</a>, or watching <a href="http://www.nyccfb.info/nyc-votes/2017-debate-program-moderators-and-panelists/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the full debate</a>.)</p> <p>-Listen to <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/podcasts/max-murphy-on-politics" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">other recent and past episodes of our election year podcast</a>; which includes conversations with several mayoral candidates, both major party public advocate candidates, the Republican comptroller candidate, and others.</p> <p>-The lone Public Advocate debate between Democrat Letitia James and Republican J.C. Polanco took place on October 16 -- you can <a href="http://www.nyccfb.info/nyc-votes/2017-debate-program-moderators-and-panelists/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">watch it here</a>, or read <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7256-public-advocate-debate-shows-stark-differences-between-james-and-polanco" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">our recap here</a>. (<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/6676-candidates-for-2017-city-elections-mayor-city-council-comptroller">There are other Public Advocate candidates running.</a>)</p> <p>-The lone Comptroller debate between Democrat Scott Stringer and Republican Michel Faulkner took place on October 17 -- you can <a href="http://www.nyccfb.info/nyc-votes/2017-debate-program-moderators-and-panelists/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">watch it here</a>, or read <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7260-comptroller-debate-focuses-on-stringer-s-record" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">our recap here</a>. (<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/6676-candidates-for-2017-city-elections-mayor-city-council-comptroller">There are other Comptroller candidates running.</a>)</p> <p>-Listen to <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7259-max-murphy-podcast-analyzing-the-public-advocate-comptroller-debates" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">our podcast episode</a> recapping the Public Advocate and Comptroller debates and discussing the latest in the mayoral race, with Brigid Bergin of WNYC radio, from October 18.</p> <p>-Poke around <a href="http://www.nyccfb.info/nyc-votes/vgwelcome/general-election-2017/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the NYC Votes website</a> to view the candidate video statements from various candidates, including those who are running in your City Council district and those running to be your Borough President (you can punch your address in at the NYC Votes website to get a narrowed scope of who will be on your ballot). NYC Votes is the nonpartisan voter education and outreach arm of the city’s Campaign Finance Board, which oversees campaign finances and helps run the debates.</p> <p>-Take <a href="http://nycvotes.nyccfb.info/top_issue_survey?utm_campaign=sept29_funfri&amp;utm_campaign=oct13_ffsurvey1&amp;utm_medium=email&amp;utm_medium=email&amp;utm_source=nycvotes&amp;utm_source=nycvotes" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">this NYC Votes survey</a> and sign up for updates.</p> <p>-Read up on the three ballot questions <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7108-there-will-be-three-big-questions-on-your-ballot-in-november" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">from Gotham Gazette</a> and/or <a href="http://www.nyccfb.info/nyc-votes/vgwelcome/general-election-2017/ballot-proposals/?languageType=English" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">from NYC Votes</a>.</p> <p>-As much as you can and want to, start reading regular coverage of the campaigns and city politics, in Gotham Gazette and other news outlets. Watch NY1, listen to WNYC radio.</p> <p>-Mark your calendar for November 7, Election Day, and make a voting plan.</p> <p>-<a href="https://nyc.pollsitelocator.com/Search.aspx" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Check your polling site</a> to see where you go to vote on November 7.</p> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/reset_1/17358963_1632433823439083_8347528747947462769_o.jpg" alt="NYC Votes voters New York City" width="600" height="600" /></p> <p>(image: NYC Votes)</p> <hr /> <p>If you’re one of many New Yorkers who have not been paying much attention to this year’s city elections, don’t worry, there’s still time to get up to speed and make informed decisions on Election Day, November 7.</p> <p>Tuesday, October 24, marked two weeks until that opportunity to vote, and after only about 14% of registered Democrats went to the polls in the September mayoral primary, it would be good for the city’s civic health if more voters cast ballots in November. (About 24% of city voters cast ballots in the last mayoral general election, in November 2013.)</p> <p>Voter turnout and election results send significant messages to our elected officials, and also to the candidates who come up short. Campaigns, consultants, candidates, and elected officials -- whether the mayor or your borough president, local City Council member or others -- know who votes and often pay attention to what voters think. Campaigns target and listen to people who have voted in the past. (One way to guarantee that your interests, preferences, and beliefs are not paid attention to is to continue not paying attention to city politics.)</p> <p>Even if you don’t have much time to dedicate to studying up, three weeks is still enough to get to know more about the candidates running for those city positions being elected this year, as well as the three questions that will be on the back of the ballot. This is direct democracy in action, and those who participate help keep our political leaders accountable, while also helping decide the direction the city heads for years to come.</p> <p>Local elected officials have many powers that directly influence everyday life, the way city services run, and the future of the city. City Council members are the local-most elected official and exist to represent you and your neighborhood -- on everything from street safety to school quality to small business policy to garbage pick-up to oversight of the NYPD, and much, much more. Along with every seat in the 51-member City Council, also on the ballot in November are the three citywide positions of Mayor, Comptroller, and Public Advocate, each Borough President position, several judicial posts, and the District Attorneys of Brooklyn and Manhattan.</p> <p>Then, <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7108-there-will-be-three-big-questions-on-your-ballot-in-november" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">there are the three ballot questions</a> that each allow for a “yes” or “no” answer. Voters get to help decide whether 1) New York will hold a state constitutional convention, 2) corrupt politicians lose their pensions, and 3) small amounts of preserved upstate land can be used for vital infrastructure projects and be replaced by other new land.</p> <p>Unfortunately, there isn’t that much competition on the ballot, largely the case because it is the general election in a city home to many, many more Democrats than Republicans or members of other parties. After Democrats, the second largest group of registered voters in New York City is actually those who do not belong to any political party, and Republicans are the third largest group. Democratic primaries are often where the most action is -- something to keep in mind for the future. [<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/6676-candidates-for-2017-city-elections-mayor-city-council-comptroller" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Here’s a full list of candidates</a> for all the city government posts on the ballot in November.]</p> <p>But for now, it is October, and you will have several choices to make if you choose to vote next month. There is competition for each of the three citywide positions, and plenty to brush up on with the candidates for those posts. For each, a Democratic incumbent is seeking a second term.</p> <p>There is also some competition for most of the other positions, though in many City Council races, the Democratic nominee is facing only nominal opposition. Still, it is important to look into the candidates and vote, helping to send a message, whether you are behind the eventual winner or not. Even incumbent City Council who win reelection pay attention to their vote totals and win margin, noticing if they have more work to do to win over constituents. Broadly speaking, there are <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7217-10-races-more-to-watch-in-the-general-election" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">about ten City Council races</a> that are especially worth paying attention to, but all that really matters for most voters is who is running in your district.</p> <p>If you want to start paying attention to this city election cycle, here are a few ways to get started:</p> <p>-<a href="https://voterlookup.elections.state.ny.us/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Check your voter registration status</a>. If you’re not registered to vote it is now too late to register to vote this November (but you should still register and get to know what’s happening this year, then get ready to vote in state level elections in 2018.)</p> <p>-Start researching the candidates for Mayor. There are seven: Democrat Bill de Blasio, Republican Nicole Malliotakis, independent Bo Dietl, Reform Party nominee Sal Albanese, Green Party nominee Akeem Browder, Libertarian Party nominee Aaron Commey, and independent Michael Tolkin.</p> <p>-Mark your calendar for Wednesday, November 1, which will be the second of two mayoral candidate debates. It is not yet clear which candidates beyond de Blasio and Malliotakis will be on the stage. It will be broadcast at 7 p.m. that night on CBS television.</p> <p>(You can catch up on the first debate by reading <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7242-de-blasio-malliotakis-dietl-engage-in-raucous-mayoral-debate" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">our recap here</a>, listening to <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7243-max-murphy-analyzing-the-first-general-election-mayoral-debate" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">this recap and analysis from our podcast</a>, or watching <a href="http://www.nyccfb.info/nyc-votes/2017-debate-program-moderators-and-panelists/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the full debate</a>.)</p> <p>-Listen to <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/podcasts/max-murphy-on-politics" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">other recent and past episodes of our election year podcast</a>; which includes conversations with several mayoral candidates, both major party public advocate candidates, the Republican comptroller candidate, and others.</p> <p>-The lone Public Advocate debate between Democrat Letitia James and Republican J.C. Polanco took place on October 16 -- you can <a href="http://www.nyccfb.info/nyc-votes/2017-debate-program-moderators-and-panelists/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">watch it here</a>, or read <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7256-public-advocate-debate-shows-stark-differences-between-james-and-polanco" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">our recap here</a>. (<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/6676-candidates-for-2017-city-elections-mayor-city-council-comptroller">There are other Public Advocate candidates running.</a>)</p> <p>-The lone Comptroller debate between Democrat Scott Stringer and Republican Michel Faulkner took place on October 17 -- you can <a href="http://www.nyccfb.info/nyc-votes/2017-debate-program-moderators-and-panelists/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">watch it here</a>, or read <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7260-comptroller-debate-focuses-on-stringer-s-record" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">our recap here</a>. (<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/6676-candidates-for-2017-city-elections-mayor-city-council-comptroller">There are other Comptroller candidates running.</a>)</p> <p>-Listen to <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7259-max-murphy-podcast-analyzing-the-public-advocate-comptroller-debates" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">our podcast episode</a> recapping the Public Advocate and Comptroller debates and discussing the latest in the mayoral race, with Brigid Bergin of WNYC radio, from October 18.</p> <p>-Poke around <a href="http://www.nyccfb.info/nyc-votes/vgwelcome/general-election-2017/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the NYC Votes website</a> to view the candidate video statements from various candidates, including those who are running in your City Council district and those running to be your Borough President (you can punch your address in at the NYC Votes website to get a narrowed scope of who will be on your ballot). NYC Votes is the nonpartisan voter education and outreach arm of the city’s Campaign Finance Board, which oversees campaign finances and helps run the debates.</p> <p>-Take <a href="http://nycvotes.nyccfb.info/top_issue_survey?utm_campaign=sept29_funfri&amp;utm_campaign=oct13_ffsurvey1&amp;utm_medium=email&amp;utm_medium=email&amp;utm_source=nycvotes&amp;utm_source=nycvotes" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">this NYC Votes survey</a> and sign up for updates.</p> <p>-Read up on the three ballot questions <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7108-there-will-be-three-big-questions-on-your-ballot-in-november" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">from Gotham Gazette</a> and/or <a href="http://www.nyccfb.info/nyc-votes/vgwelcome/general-election-2017/ballot-proposals/?languageType=English" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">from NYC Votes</a>.</p> <p>-As much as you can and want to, start reading regular coverage of the campaigns and city politics, in Gotham Gazette and other news outlets. Watch NY1, listen to WNYC radio.</p> <p>-Mark your calendar for November 7, Election Day, and make a voting plan.</p> <p>-<a href="https://nyc.pollsitelocator.com/Search.aspx" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Check your polling site</a> to see where you go to vote on November 7.</p> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
You Can Help Boost Voter Turnout on Election Day, But You Have to Register Soon 2017-10-05T04:00:00+00:00 2017-10-05T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7237:you-can-help-boost-voter-turnout-on-election-day-but-you-have-to-register-soon Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/reset_1/30237613934_e09b7565df_z.jpg" alt="voting booth elections " width="600" height="399" /></p> <p>(Edwin J. Torres/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>In order to vote in the city’s November 7 general election -- for Mayor, Public Advocate, Comptroller, Borough President City Council, and other offices -- <a href="https://www.elections.ny.gov/VotingDeadlines.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">one must register with the Board of Elections</a> by Friday, October 13. For registrations by mail, registration forms must be postmarked by October 13 and received by the BOE by Wednesday, October 18. This is only for New York City residents who are not currently registered to vote.</p> <p>Since party primaries are over, prospective voters are no longer being held to party registration deadlines and regulations -- New York has a closed primary system, with party-change deadlines far in advance. To vote in November’s election, one must simply be registered, with any party or none -- those registered to vote but not with one of about 10 official political parties are called “unaffiliated” voters. They are also at times referred to as “independents” or even “blanks” because of how they leave the party registration section of the form.</p> <p>It appears that many New Yorkers have registered with the Independence Party thinking that it makes them an “independent” voter, but that is not the case.</p> <p>Notably, though, Friday, October 13 -- of this year, 2017 -- is also the deadline to change your party registration ahead of next year's 2018 state-level electoral primaries in New York. If you're already registered to vote, you can declare a party or change parties by October 13 and be eligible for voting in Democratic, Republican, or other party primaries next fall.</p> <p>Turnout on this Election Day is expected to be very low, with Mayor Bill de Blasio appearing likely to trounce his main opponents, Republican Nicole Malliotakis and independent Bo Dietl, as well as other minor candidates, including Reform Party nominee Sal Albanese, Green Party nominee Akeem Browder, and Michael Tolkin, running on his self-created Smart Cities ballot line.</p> <p>In 2013, the turnout in the general election between de Blasio and Republican Joe Lhota was a meager <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/news/election-2013/2013/11/06/new-york-turnout-appears-headed-for-record-low/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">24%, the lowest in the city’s modern history</a>. The 24% turnout in the general came after the Democratic and Republican primaries clocked in at <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/13/nyregion/20-turnout-in-new-york-primaries.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">22% and 12%</a>, respectively.</p> <p>In this year’s Democratic primary on September 12, <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/de-blasio-set-win-low-turnout-democratic-mayoral-primary-article-1.3489468" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">14%</a> of registered Democrats turned out to cast ballots. This is one of the lowest Democratic primary turnouts in the city’s history; in 2009, Bill Thompson won the Democratic mayoral primary with turnout of 11%.</p> <p>This starkly low turnout in the Democratic primary comes in the wake of <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7036-8-new-report-shows-shockingly-low-voter-turnout-in-nyc" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">even lower turnout</a> numbers in last year’s primaries for state and federal legislative offices. In the September 2016 state legislative primary, turnout totaled 10%; in June’s congressional primary, turnout stood at a measly 8%, according to a <a href="http://vote.nyc.ny.us/downloads/pdf/documents/boe/AnnualReports/BOEAnnualReport16.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">report</a> from the City’s Board of Elections.</p> <p>These numbers stood in sharp contrast to the turnout rates for the higher profile presidential contest that year: 35% of registered party members voted in April’s presidential primary, and 62% of registered voters in New York City voted in the November general election, with Hillary Clinton versus Donald Trump at the top of the marquee.</p> <p>As of April 1 in New York City, there were just under 5 million registered voters. Of these, about 3.43 million were Democrats, about 522,600 were Republicans, and about 880,660 were unaffiliated with a party. Many thousands more were spread among the smaller parties, including Green, Reform, Independence, Conservative, and Working Families.</p> <p><a href="http://maristpoll.marist.edu/919-nyc-mayors-race-de-blasio-leads-malliotakis-by-47-points-mayors-approval-rating-highest-in-two-years/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">A recent poll</a> for this year’s mayoral race from NBC-4 and Marist College shows de Blasio leading the pack with 65% of the vote, followed by Malliotakis at 18% and Dietl at 8%. While there are several weeks to Election Day, competitors must catch fire soon to have a chance to unseat the Democratic incumbent. The first debate -- with de Blasio, Malliotakis and Dietl -- is scheduled for Tuesday, October 10.</p> <p>New Yorkers can check their registration status <a href="https://voterlookup.elections.state.ny.us/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">here</a>, check registration deadlines <a href="https://www.elections.ny.gov/VotingDeadlines.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">here</a>, and see a full list of candidates for all offices in the general election <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/6676-candidates-for-2017-city-elections-mayor-city-council-comptroller" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">here</a>.</p> <p>

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by Ben Brachfeld, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/reset_1/30237613934_e09b7565df_z.jpg" alt="voting booth elections " width="600" height="399" /></p> <p>(Edwin J. Torres/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>In order to vote in the city’s November 7 general election -- for Mayor, Public Advocate, Comptroller, Borough President City Council, and other offices -- <a href="https://www.elections.ny.gov/VotingDeadlines.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">one must register with the Board of Elections</a> by Friday, October 13. For registrations by mail, registration forms must be postmarked by October 13 and received by the BOE by Wednesday, October 18. This is only for New York City residents who are not currently registered to vote.</p> <p>Since party primaries are over, prospective voters are no longer being held to party registration deadlines and regulations -- New York has a closed primary system, with party-change deadlines far in advance. To vote in November’s election, one must simply be registered, with any party or none -- those registered to vote but not with one of about 10 official political parties are called “unaffiliated” voters. They are also at times referred to as “independents” or even “blanks” because of how they leave the party registration section of the form.</p> <p>It appears that many New Yorkers have registered with the Independence Party thinking that it makes them an “independent” voter, but that is not the case.</p> <p>Notably, though, Friday, October 13 -- of this year, 2017 -- is also the deadline to change your party registration ahead of next year's 2018 state-level electoral primaries in New York. If you're already registered to vote, you can declare a party or change parties by October 13 and be eligible for voting in Democratic, Republican, or other party primaries next fall.</p> <p>Turnout on this Election Day is expected to be very low, with Mayor Bill de Blasio appearing likely to trounce his main opponents, Republican Nicole Malliotakis and independent Bo Dietl, as well as other minor candidates, including Reform Party nominee Sal Albanese, Green Party nominee Akeem Browder, and Michael Tolkin, running on his self-created Smart Cities ballot line.</p> <p>In 2013, the turnout in the general election between de Blasio and Republican Joe Lhota was a meager <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/news/election-2013/2013/11/06/new-york-turnout-appears-headed-for-record-low/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">24%, the lowest in the city’s modern history</a>. The 24% turnout in the general came after the Democratic and Republican primaries clocked in at <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/13/nyregion/20-turnout-in-new-york-primaries.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">22% and 12%</a>, respectively.</p> <p>In this year’s Democratic primary on September 12, <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/de-blasio-set-win-low-turnout-democratic-mayoral-primary-article-1.3489468" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">14%</a> of registered Democrats turned out to cast ballots. This is one of the lowest Democratic primary turnouts in the city’s history; in 2009, Bill Thompson won the Democratic mayoral primary with turnout of 11%.</p> <p>This starkly low turnout in the Democratic primary comes in the wake of <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7036-8-new-report-shows-shockingly-low-voter-turnout-in-nyc" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">even lower turnout</a> numbers in last year’s primaries for state and federal legislative offices. In the September 2016 state legislative primary, turnout totaled 10%; in June’s congressional primary, turnout stood at a measly 8%, according to a <a href="http://vote.nyc.ny.us/downloads/pdf/documents/boe/AnnualReports/BOEAnnualReport16.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">report</a> from the City’s Board of Elections.</p> <p>These numbers stood in sharp contrast to the turnout rates for the higher profile presidential contest that year: 35% of registered party members voted in April’s presidential primary, and 62% of registered voters in New York City voted in the November general election, with Hillary Clinton versus Donald Trump at the top of the marquee.</p> <p>As of April 1 in New York City, there were just under 5 million registered voters. Of these, about 3.43 million were Democrats, about 522,600 were Republicans, and about 880,660 were unaffiliated with a party. Many thousands more were spread among the smaller parties, including Green, Reform, Independence, Conservative, and Working Families.</p> <p><a href="http://maristpoll.marist.edu/919-nyc-mayors-race-de-blasio-leads-malliotakis-by-47-points-mayors-approval-rating-highest-in-two-years/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">A recent poll</a> for this year’s mayoral race from NBC-4 and Marist College shows de Blasio leading the pack with 65% of the vote, followed by Malliotakis at 18% and Dietl at 8%. While there are several weeks to Election Day, competitors must catch fire soon to have a chance to unseat the Democratic incumbent. The first debate -- with de Blasio, Malliotakis and Dietl -- is scheduled for Tuesday, October 10.</p> <p>New Yorkers can check their registration status <a href="https://voterlookup.elections.state.ny.us/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">here</a>, check registration deadlines <a href="https://www.elections.ny.gov/VotingDeadlines.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">here</a>, and see a full list of candidates for all offices in the general election <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/6676-candidates-for-2017-city-elections-mayor-city-council-comptroller" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">here</a>.</p> <p>

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by Ben Brachfeld, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

</p>
Your Right to Vote in New York is as Vulnerable as Anywhere in the U.S. 2017-08-22T04:00:00+00:00 2017-08-22T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7145:your-right-to-vote-in-new-york-is-as-vulnerable-as-anywhere-in-the-u-s Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/32985722296_421eb35b2d_k.jpg" alt="32985722296 421eb35b2d k" width="600" height="444" /></p> <p>(photo: Samar Khurshid/Gotham Gazette)</p> <hr /> <p>We are in a perilous time for voting rights. Since even before President Trump’s inauguration, he has been pushing the myth of widespread voter fraud. With the creation of the Presidential Advisory Commission for Election Integrity in May, he put the power of the federal government behind perpetuating that claim. This commission is part of a larger and systematic assault on voting rights.</p> <p>Our government, both on the federal and state level, has made increasingly aggressive moves to redefine voting as a privilege rather than a fundamental right. The ultimate goal of these efforts is to make the electorate older, whiter, and more conservative by disenfranchising millions of students, low-income women and men, and people of color. Voting rights do not have the emotional appeal of some of the other dangers presented by this administration. However, our right to vote is our ability to have a say in the makeup and functioning of our government and our judicial system.</p> <p>The efforts to restrict that ability are a key component of a larger effort to perpetuate a status quo of white supremacy, of ableism, of patriarchy, of deciding whose lives matter. Even after the passage of the Fifteenth Amendment, African-Americans continued to be disenfranchised for close to 100 years by vigilantes and mobs through a campaign of intimidation, terror, and assassinations. The violence that recently occurred in Charlottesville must be understood in light of our past and present struggles to preserve and expand the right to vote.</p> <p>In May, Indiana enacted a law requiring a single county to consolidate precincts with fewer than 600 active voters, which would potentially eliminate half of the county’s voting precincts. The county in question, Lake County, is home to the largest Hispanic and second largest African-American population in the state. The Indiana Conference of the NAACP, supported by Priorities USA Foundation, filed a complaint challenging the law this month, arguing that the law violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.</p> <p>We see no reason to believe that the DOJ will fight on the side of the citizens who will be disenfranchised by this law. More recently, the Department of Justice, led by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, reversed a position held under the Obama administration and filed a brief siding with the state of Ohio after it purged thousands of people from its voter rolls for being “inactive” after not voting in two elections. Rather than defending its citizens and working to guarantee our right to vote, the DOJ is using its significant influence to support the practice of denying eligible voters their rights. The actions join the propagation of voter ID laws and voter roll purges in states like Wisconsin, Georgia, and beyond. These attacks are as widespread as they are effective.</p> <p>The threat of voter roll purges and voter suppression now looms over the Empire State.</p> <p>Earlier this month, the New York State Board of Elections complied with a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request for New York voter roll information from the President’s Commission. The BOE turned over publicly available data (name, birthdate, home address, gender, political party affiliation, and voting history). The Co-Chairs of the BOE and Governor Cuomo released strikingly similar statements justifying this release, while explaining that they remain committed to protecting New Yorkers.</p> <p>In Governor Cuomo’s statement, he referred to the commission as “a politically-motivated organization seeking to perpetuate the myth of voter fraud.” In response to questions by Brooklyn Voters Alliance members, BOE Co-Chair Douglas Kellner stated, “I have repeatedly indicated my concern that the leadership of the Presidential Commission has a track record that shows they are more interested in voter suppression rather than uncovering fraud. Nevertheless, New York law is unambiguous that any person can obtain a copy of the public voter list as long as they agree that the list will used be only for election purposes.”</p> <p>We are pleased to see our elected officials and state agencies acknowledging the real threat posed by this federal administration. However, merely acknowledging the problem is not an adequate response to the grave threat New Yorkers face.</p> <p>Despite living in a state that is known for championing progressive values, the voting rights of New Yorkers are vulnerable. And despite prior assurances by Governor Cuomo, New York is not leading in the area of voting rights.</p> <p>As the Governor has acknowledged, we have some of the most outdated election laws in the country. Yet, the state Legislature passed none of the voting reforms introduced this legislative session. It is time for actions to match the rhetoric. It is time for New York’s elected officials to counter the efforts of the Trump administration to disenfranchise Americans by providing automatic voter registration, early voting, same day voter registration, and other measures that will expand access to the ballot and make it easier for all New Yorkers to vote.</p> <p>Our rights will not be preserved by eloquent statements and voter registration drives. New York voters need full protection of our registration and voting rights. We need a government that demonstrates it will protect the voice of all of its citizens. That is why we demand meaningful voting reform.</p> <p>***<br /> Executive Committee, Brooklyn Voters Alliance: Amanda Blair, Jess Byrne, Erica Cohen, Jacques David, Nicole Hunt, Julie Kerr, Amanda Ritchie, Beth Slade, Amy Stuart<br /> Brooklyn Voters Alliance is a Brooklyn-based group of concerned citizens who want to encourage civic engagement and ensure open and fair elections for all New Yorkers.&nbsp;On Twitter: <a href="https://twitter.com/bkvoters" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@BKVoters</a>.</p> <p>

***
Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/32985722296_421eb35b2d_k.jpg" alt="32985722296 421eb35b2d k" width="600" height="444" /></p> <p>(photo: Samar Khurshid/Gotham Gazette)</p> <hr /> <p>We are in a perilous time for voting rights. Since even before President Trump’s inauguration, he has been pushing the myth of widespread voter fraud. With the creation of the Presidential Advisory Commission for Election Integrity in May, he put the power of the federal government behind perpetuating that claim. This commission is part of a larger and systematic assault on voting rights.</p> <p>Our government, both on the federal and state level, has made increasingly aggressive moves to redefine voting as a privilege rather than a fundamental right. The ultimate goal of these efforts is to make the electorate older, whiter, and more conservative by disenfranchising millions of students, low-income women and men, and people of color. Voting rights do not have the emotional appeal of some of the other dangers presented by this administration. However, our right to vote is our ability to have a say in the makeup and functioning of our government and our judicial system.</p> <p>The efforts to restrict that ability are a key component of a larger effort to perpetuate a status quo of white supremacy, of ableism, of patriarchy, of deciding whose lives matter. Even after the passage of the Fifteenth Amendment, African-Americans continued to be disenfranchised for close to 100 years by vigilantes and mobs through a campaign of intimidation, terror, and assassinations. The violence that recently occurred in Charlottesville must be understood in light of our past and present struggles to preserve and expand the right to vote.</p> <p>In May, Indiana enacted a law requiring a single county to consolidate precincts with fewer than 600 active voters, which would potentially eliminate half of the county’s voting precincts. The county in question, Lake County, is home to the largest Hispanic and second largest African-American population in the state. The Indiana Conference of the NAACP, supported by Priorities USA Foundation, filed a complaint challenging the law this month, arguing that the law violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.</p> <p>We see no reason to believe that the DOJ will fight on the side of the citizens who will be disenfranchised by this law. More recently, the Department of Justice, led by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, reversed a position held under the Obama administration and filed a brief siding with the state of Ohio after it purged thousands of people from its voter rolls for being “inactive” after not voting in two elections. Rather than defending its citizens and working to guarantee our right to vote, the DOJ is using its significant influence to support the practice of denying eligible voters their rights. The actions join the propagation of voter ID laws and voter roll purges in states like Wisconsin, Georgia, and beyond. These attacks are as widespread as they are effective.</p> <p>The threat of voter roll purges and voter suppression now looms over the Empire State.</p> <p>Earlier this month, the New York State Board of Elections complied with a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request for New York voter roll information from the President’s Commission. The BOE turned over publicly available data (name, birthdate, home address, gender, political party affiliation, and voting history). The Co-Chairs of the BOE and Governor Cuomo released strikingly similar statements justifying this release, while explaining that they remain committed to protecting New Yorkers.</p> <p>In Governor Cuomo’s statement, he referred to the commission as “a politically-motivated organization seeking to perpetuate the myth of voter fraud.” In response to questions by Brooklyn Voters Alliance members, BOE Co-Chair Douglas Kellner stated, “I have repeatedly indicated my concern that the leadership of the Presidential Commission has a track record that shows they are more interested in voter suppression rather than uncovering fraud. Nevertheless, New York law is unambiguous that any person can obtain a copy of the public voter list as long as they agree that the list will used be only for election purposes.”</p> <p>We are pleased to see our elected officials and state agencies acknowledging the real threat posed by this federal administration. However, merely acknowledging the problem is not an adequate response to the grave threat New Yorkers face.</p> <p>Despite living in a state that is known for championing progressive values, the voting rights of New Yorkers are vulnerable. And despite prior assurances by Governor Cuomo, New York is not leading in the area of voting rights.</p> <p>As the Governor has acknowledged, we have some of the most outdated election laws in the country. Yet, the state Legislature passed none of the voting reforms introduced this legislative session. It is time for actions to match the rhetoric. It is time for New York’s elected officials to counter the efforts of the Trump administration to disenfranchise Americans by providing automatic voter registration, early voting, same day voter registration, and other measures that will expand access to the ballot and make it easier for all New Yorkers to vote.</p> <p>Our rights will not be preserved by eloquent statements and voter registration drives. New York voters need full protection of our registration and voting rights. We need a government that demonstrates it will protect the voice of all of its citizens. That is why we demand meaningful voting reform.</p> <p>***<br /> Executive Committee, Brooklyn Voters Alliance: Amanda Blair, Jess Byrne, Erica Cohen, Jacques David, Nicole Hunt, Julie Kerr, Amanda Ritchie, Beth Slade, Amy Stuart<br /> Brooklyn Voters Alliance is a Brooklyn-based group of concerned citizens who want to encourage civic engagement and ensure open and fair elections for all New Yorkers.&nbsp;On Twitter: <a href="https://twitter.com/bkvoters" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@BKVoters</a>.</p> <p>

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New York Votes Act Doesn’t Go Far Enough 2017-06-12T22:21:57+00:00 2017-06-12T22:21:57+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6991:new-york-votes-act-doesn-t-go-far-enough Super User <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/voting_ag_april_2016.jpg" alt="Eric Schneiderman" width="600" height="554" /></p> <p><span style="color: #282723; font-family: museo_sans, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 15px; font-style: normal; font-variant-ligatures: normal; font-variant-caps: normal; font-weight: 500; letter-spacing: normal; orphans: 2; text-align: start; text-indent: 0px; text-transform: none; white-space: normal; widows: 2; word-spacing: 0px; -webkit-text-stroke-width: 0px; background-color: #ffffff; text-decoration-style: initial; text-decoration-color: initial; display: inline !important; float: none;"><span>&nbsp;</span>(photo via @AGSchneiderman)</span></p> <hr /> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In February, New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman introduced the New York Votes Act, a comprehensive set of bills to protect and expand voting rights in New York. Among other issues, the Act includes no-excuse absentee ballots, early voting, and automatic voter registration. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">This legislation is a step in the right direction, but I worry that it ignores the most impactful form of voter suppression facing New York: the state’s closed primary system.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">About 3.3 million independent and unaffiliated voters are locked out of New York’s closed primaries -- </span><a href="http://www.elections.ny.gov/NYSBOE/enrollment/county/county_apr17.pdf"><span style="font-weight: 400;">more voters</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> than the Republican Party has enrolled in the entire state!</span><span style="font-weight: 400;">.</span><span style="font-weight: 400;"> The system impacts over a million more New Yorkers than automatic voter registration would. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Some argue that independents aren’t technically “disenfranchised” in New York because they still get to vote in the general election. But here’s the thing: New York districts are so uncompetitive -- as a result of partisan gerrymandering -- that over 90 percent of elections are determined in the primary. By the time the general election comes around, most races have already been decided. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Hundreds of thousands of voters were furious when they couldn’t vote in the New York presidential primary last year. Many tried to change their party registration ahead of time, and were still denied a vote, due to this ridiculous rule and the untenable lead time required. New York’s voting laws stifled many new voters or those newly engaged in politics that wanted to participate in our democracy.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">I witnessed many of my grassroots organizers and colleagues, people incredibly engaged in the campaign process, not able to vote or forced to vote by affidavit, only to find out later in the mail their vote wasn’t counted. This is exactly what contributes to lower civic and political engagement, and in turn, lower voter turnout. &nbsp;&nbsp;</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">While Schneiderman originally proposed giving independents the ability to change their party affiliation up to 10 days (in-person) or 25 days (by mail) ahead of a primary, the final version of the New York Votes Act will move the deadline to four months ahead of a primary. If the bill passes, New York would only move from having the longest wait period to change party affiliation to the second longest wait. That’s not reform. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">And regardless of the affiliation deadline, the solution fails to address the core reason why so many voters are increasingly becoming independent; they don’t want to join a party for any reason or duration of time. No one should have to register with a party in order to vote in any election. Attorney General Schneiderman even acknowledged that in his </span><a href="https://ag.ny.gov/sites/default/files/2016_statewide_elections_report.pdf"><span style="font-weight: 400;">report on voting</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> reform, going as far as to recognize that: “Many of these individuals had no interest in affiliating with either of the two major parties” in order to vote. So why make them?</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">No wonder independent voting rights advocate Francis Barry wrote in a </span><a href="https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2017-05-18/voter-suppression-in-deep-blue-new-york"><span style="font-weight: 400;">recent op-ed</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">: “New York is the worst state for independents, bar none.”&nbsp;</span><span>And no wonder New York consistently ranks among the lowest in voter turnout in the country.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">There is a </span><a href="http://retrieverweekly.umbc.edu/open-primaries-combating-political-polarization-america/"><span style="font-weight: 400;">strong connection</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> between closed primaries and low turnout in the general. Four of the five states with the lowest turnout in 2016 have closed primaries. The five states with the highest voter turnout in 2016 all use open primaries. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">When you lock millions of voters out of the primaries, you can’t expect them to turn out for your party in the general election. That much is obvious. Independent voters want to be a part of the political process from day one, not ignored during the primary or told “join a party if you want to vote.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The abysmal voter turnout in New York is a large part of the reason why Schneiderman introduced the New York Votes Act in the first place. The day the legislation was introduced, he held a press conference at Federal Hall, where he stood in front of a crowd of voting reform activists and declared his support for any legislation that “makes it easier to vote.” </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">So why does the New York Votes Act tout automatic voter registration as the centerpiece of reform, rather than the single most impactful issue facing New York voters -- the very issue that has the biggest effect on voter turnout? </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">What good is automatic voter registration for the general election when the vast majority of races are determined in the primary? And why focus on it at the expense of over 3 million voters who want to vote but don’t want to be forced into choosing a party? </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Millions of Americans support open primaries. The current system, in which taxpayers fund closed primaries that exclude huge swaths of voters, is unsustainable. You cannot lock out the second biggest voting bloc in a state from participating in what almost always amounts to the only meaningful round of voting. That’s not democracy.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Primaries are public elections funded by taxpayers. Everyone should be allowed to vote in them, regardless of party affiliation. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">As a grassroots activist who organized for Bernie Sanders in four different states -- and have since joined NYPAN and the Democratic Socialists of America -- I’ve heard from hundreds of Americans who are fed up with way the country runs its elections. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">That’s why I’m supporting the Open Primaries </span><a href="http://www.openprimariesny.org/"><span style="font-weight: 400;">petition to Attorney General Schneiderman and the New York State Legislature to do the right thing</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">, and expand the New York Votes Act to include open primaries.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Abide by your own words, Mr. Attorney General, and make it easier to vote in New York, for all New Yorkers, by opening the primaries. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Make New York a true democracy.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">***<br /></span><span>Jeremy Kaplan is an independent filmmaker and political activist.</span></p> <p>

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<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/voting_ag_april_2016.jpg" alt="Eric Schneiderman" width="600" height="554" /></p> <p><span style="color: #282723; font-family: museo_sans, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 15px; font-style: normal; font-variant-ligatures: normal; font-variant-caps: normal; font-weight: 500; letter-spacing: normal; orphans: 2; text-align: start; text-indent: 0px; text-transform: none; white-space: normal; widows: 2; word-spacing: 0px; -webkit-text-stroke-width: 0px; background-color: #ffffff; text-decoration-style: initial; text-decoration-color: initial; display: inline !important; float: none;"><span>&nbsp;</span>(photo via @AGSchneiderman)</span></p> <hr /> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In February, New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman introduced the New York Votes Act, a comprehensive set of bills to protect and expand voting rights in New York. Among other issues, the Act includes no-excuse absentee ballots, early voting, and automatic voter registration. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">This legislation is a step in the right direction, but I worry that it ignores the most impactful form of voter suppression facing New York: the state’s closed primary system.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">About 3.3 million independent and unaffiliated voters are locked out of New York’s closed primaries -- </span><a href="http://www.elections.ny.gov/NYSBOE/enrollment/county/county_apr17.pdf"><span style="font-weight: 400;">more voters</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> than the Republican Party has enrolled in the entire state!</span><span style="font-weight: 400;">.</span><span style="font-weight: 400;"> The system impacts over a million more New Yorkers than automatic voter registration would. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Some argue that independents aren’t technically “disenfranchised” in New York because they still get to vote in the general election. But here’s the thing: New York districts are so uncompetitive -- as a result of partisan gerrymandering -- that over 90 percent of elections are determined in the primary. By the time the general election comes around, most races have already been decided. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Hundreds of thousands of voters were furious when they couldn’t vote in the New York presidential primary last year. Many tried to change their party registration ahead of time, and were still denied a vote, due to this ridiculous rule and the untenable lead time required. New York’s voting laws stifled many new voters or those newly engaged in politics that wanted to participate in our democracy.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">I witnessed many of my grassroots organizers and colleagues, people incredibly engaged in the campaign process, not able to vote or forced to vote by affidavit, only to find out later in the mail their vote wasn’t counted. This is exactly what contributes to lower civic and political engagement, and in turn, lower voter turnout. &nbsp;&nbsp;</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">While Schneiderman originally proposed giving independents the ability to change their party affiliation up to 10 days (in-person) or 25 days (by mail) ahead of a primary, the final version of the New York Votes Act will move the deadline to four months ahead of a primary. If the bill passes, New York would only move from having the longest wait period to change party affiliation to the second longest wait. That’s not reform. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">And regardless of the affiliation deadline, the solution fails to address the core reason why so many voters are increasingly becoming independent; they don’t want to join a party for any reason or duration of time. No one should have to register with a party in order to vote in any election. Attorney General Schneiderman even acknowledged that in his </span><a href="https://ag.ny.gov/sites/default/files/2016_statewide_elections_report.pdf"><span style="font-weight: 400;">report on voting</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> reform, going as far as to recognize that: “Many of these individuals had no interest in affiliating with either of the two major parties” in order to vote. So why make them?</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">No wonder independent voting rights advocate Francis Barry wrote in a </span><a href="https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2017-05-18/voter-suppression-in-deep-blue-new-york"><span style="font-weight: 400;">recent op-ed</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">: “New York is the worst state for independents, bar none.”&nbsp;</span><span>And no wonder New York consistently ranks among the lowest in voter turnout in the country.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">There is a </span><a href="http://retrieverweekly.umbc.edu/open-primaries-combating-political-polarization-america/"><span style="font-weight: 400;">strong connection</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> between closed primaries and low turnout in the general. Four of the five states with the lowest turnout in 2016 have closed primaries. The five states with the highest voter turnout in 2016 all use open primaries. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">When you lock millions of voters out of the primaries, you can’t expect them to turn out for your party in the general election. That much is obvious. Independent voters want to be a part of the political process from day one, not ignored during the primary or told “join a party if you want to vote.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The abysmal voter turnout in New York is a large part of the reason why Schneiderman introduced the New York Votes Act in the first place. The day the legislation was introduced, he held a press conference at Federal Hall, where he stood in front of a crowd of voting reform activists and declared his support for any legislation that “makes it easier to vote.” </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">So why does the New York Votes Act tout automatic voter registration as the centerpiece of reform, rather than the single most impactful issue facing New York voters -- the very issue that has the biggest effect on voter turnout? </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">What good is automatic voter registration for the general election when the vast majority of races are determined in the primary? And why focus on it at the expense of over 3 million voters who want to vote but don’t want to be forced into choosing a party? </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Millions of Americans support open primaries. The current system, in which taxpayers fund closed primaries that exclude huge swaths of voters, is unsustainable. You cannot lock out the second biggest voting bloc in a state from participating in what almost always amounts to the only meaningful round of voting. That’s not democracy.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Primaries are public elections funded by taxpayers. Everyone should be allowed to vote in them, regardless of party affiliation. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">As a grassroots activist who organized for Bernie Sanders in four different states -- and have since joined NYPAN and the Democratic Socialists of America -- I’ve heard from hundreds of Americans who are fed up with way the country runs its elections. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">That’s why I’m supporting the Open Primaries </span><a href="http://www.openprimariesny.org/"><span style="font-weight: 400;">petition to Attorney General Schneiderman and the New York State Legislature to do the right thing</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">, and expand the New York Votes Act to include open primaries.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Abide by your own words, Mr. Attorney General, and make it easier to vote in New York, for all New Yorkers, by opening the primaries. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Make New York a true democracy.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">***<br /></span><span>Jeremy Kaplan is an independent filmmaker and political activist.</span></p> <p>

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Schneiderman: ‘Not one single substantiated claim of voter fraud in New York last year’ 2017-02-22T05:00:00+00:00 2017-02-22T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6770:schneiderman-not-one-single-substantiated-claim-of-voter-fraud-in-new-york-last-year Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/voting_AG_april_2016.jpg" alt="Schneiderman voting" width="600" height="554" /></p> <p>AG Eric Schneiderman voting</p> <hr /> <p>New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman responded to a congressional inquiry Wednesday, making clear that there was “not one single substantiated claim of voter fraud in New York last year.”</p> <p>In a letter, addressed to Reps. Elijah Cummings, Robert Brady, and James Clyburn, Schneiderman emphasized the real voting challenges in New York are those that disenfranchise potential voters, rather than the “imaginary problem of voter fraud.”</p> <p>“New York’s voting system faces many challenges,” Schneiderman wrote, with restrictive laws, rules and procedures, as well as administrative errors, that both legally and illegally disenfranchise New Yorkers seeking to exercise their right to vote.</p> <p>Schneiderman’s letter came, he wrote, in response to an inquiry from the three members of Congress, all of whom are fellow Democrats, that came in the wake of President Donald Trump’s unsubstantiated <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-politics/wp/2017/01/23/at-white-house-trump-tells-congressional-leaders-3-5-million-illegal-ballots-cost-him-the-popular-vote/" target="_blank">claim</a> that 3 to 5 million people voted illegally, costing him the popular vote during the presidential election. Cummings is the top Democrat on the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform; Brady is ranking member, Committee on House Administration; and Clyburn is Assistant Democratic Leader.</p> <p>In a letter to election officials and attorneys general in all 50 states, <a href="https://democrats-oversight.house.gov/news/press-releases/cummings-launches-investigation-of-true-the-vote-raises-questions-about" target="_blank">the representatives asked</a> for details like the identity of individuals who cast a prohibited vote, the date of the vote, the polling place where the vote was cast, the legal reason for the vote being prohibited, and whether the individual was prosecuted.</p> <p>Out of the thousands of calls fielded by the Attorney General’s office during the four elections that took place in New York during 2016 (three primary days and one general election day), just two callers alleged voter fraud, according to Schneiderman. The Attorney General’s office investigated one claim and determined the charge was unfounded. The second caller did not provide sufficient information to warrant an investigation in that case.</p> <p>Furthermore, the New York State Board of Elections has not referred a single allegation related to fraudulent voting during the 2016 elections to the Attorney General for investigation or prosecution, according to Schneiderman. “The lack of such complaints made directly to my office, as well as the absence of referrals from other agencies, leads me to conclude that voter fraud—the act of an ineligible individual casting a vote in an election—is a non-issue, at least in New York State,” he wrote in the letter.</p> <p>Unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud have <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/6572-election-commissioner-s-rant-prompts-dispute-over-idnyc-and-voter-id-in-new-york" target="_blank">erupted on the local</a> and national stages in the past year. In October 2016, Manhattan Board of Elections Commissioner Alan Schulkin came under fire after he was secretly filmed alleging that rampant voter fraud exists in New York City, enabled, in part, by Mayor Bill de Blasio’s municipal identification program (which has no relationship with voting given that New York does not have voter identification laws). Schulkin, a Democrat, also claimed organizations in certain neighborhoods bus voters around between districts to fraudulently win seats, apparently making the case for Republican-backed voter ID laws.</p> <p>At the time, City Council Speaker Mark-Viverito blasted Schulkin’s claims as “uninformed opinions” with “no basis in fact” while Mayor Bill de Blasio <a href="http://nypost.com/2016/10/11/assemblyman-demands-elections-official-resign-for-linking-minorities-to-voter-fraud/" target="_blank">called for</a> his resignation. Democratic Party leaders <a href="http://nypost.com/2016/11/16/elections-official-resigns-after-video-blasting-de-blasios-id-program/" target="_blank">decided</a> not to reappoint Schulkin after his term ended in December 31, 2016 -- he continues to serve, though, until a replacement is named and confirmed through the City Council.</p> <p>Trump’s more recent theory that thousands of voters were “bussed in” from Massachusetts to New Hampshire during the presidential election have since been discredited <a href="http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/320361-lewandowski-says-he-didnt-see-evidence-of-trumps-voter-fraud-claims" target="_blank">even by</a> the president’s closest aides.</p> <p>Voter access continues to be a problem given New York’s antiquated electoral system, which has drawn the scorn of many elected officials, advocates, and everyday New Yorkers. In December, the Office of the Attorney General released a comprehensive report detailing the many issues voters faced at the polls during the April 2016 presidential primary election.</p> <p>Last year, Mayor de Blasio outlined a series of voting reforms he wants to see, including early voting and same-day voter registration.</p> <p>As he has before, Governor Andrew Cuomo included <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/6724-cuomo-embraces-voting-reform-agenda-but-implementation-poses-challenges" target="_blank">those measures and others</a> in his 2017 State of the State policy agenda.</p> <p>Attorney General Schneiderman recently <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/6752-attorney-general-unveils-sweeping-voting-reforms-package" target="_blank">introduced the New York Votes Act</a>, which seeks to address many of these ongoing issues by updating the state’s voting systems through early voting, automatic and same-day registration, consolidated primaries, shortened party registration deadlines, and more. Schneiderman also recently filed suit against the New York City Board of Elections for widespread violations that illegally purged over 200,000 New Yorkers from the voter rolls.</p> <p>Republicans in the state Senate <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/6724-cuomo-embraces-voting-reform-agenda-but-implementation-poses-challenges" target="_blank">continue to form</a> the most obvious and entrenched blockade to most of the voting reforms being sought by Cuomo, Schneiderman, and others.</p> <p>“Our democracy is ailing, with too few eligible citizens registered to vote, too few of those who are registered exercising this fundamental right, and too many states devising methods to suppress the vote, rather than encourage participation in our nation’s elections,” <a href="https://ag.ny.gov/sites/default/files/2017.02.22_ltr_to_cummings_brady_clyburn_re_voter_fraud.pdf" target="_blank">Schneiderman wrote</a> to members of Congress. “We would be happy to work with Congress to solve these problems – many of which persist not only in New York but also in states across the country – rather than seek to address the imaginary problem of voter fraud.”</p> <p>

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by Rachel Silberstein, State government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

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<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/voting_AG_april_2016.jpg" alt="Schneiderman voting" width="600" height="554" /></p> <p>AG Eric Schneiderman voting</p> <hr /> <p>New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman responded to a congressional inquiry Wednesday, making clear that there was “not one single substantiated claim of voter fraud in New York last year.”</p> <p>In a letter, addressed to Reps. Elijah Cummings, Robert Brady, and James Clyburn, Schneiderman emphasized the real voting challenges in New York are those that disenfranchise potential voters, rather than the “imaginary problem of voter fraud.”</p> <p>“New York’s voting system faces many challenges,” Schneiderman wrote, with restrictive laws, rules and procedures, as well as administrative errors, that both legally and illegally disenfranchise New Yorkers seeking to exercise their right to vote.</p> <p>Schneiderman’s letter came, he wrote, in response to an inquiry from the three members of Congress, all of whom are fellow Democrats, that came in the wake of President Donald Trump’s unsubstantiated <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-politics/wp/2017/01/23/at-white-house-trump-tells-congressional-leaders-3-5-million-illegal-ballots-cost-him-the-popular-vote/" target="_blank">claim</a> that 3 to 5 million people voted illegally, costing him the popular vote during the presidential election. Cummings is the top Democrat on the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform; Brady is ranking member, Committee on House Administration; and Clyburn is Assistant Democratic Leader.</p> <p>In a letter to election officials and attorneys general in all 50 states, <a href="https://democrats-oversight.house.gov/news/press-releases/cummings-launches-investigation-of-true-the-vote-raises-questions-about" target="_blank">the representatives asked</a> for details like the identity of individuals who cast a prohibited vote, the date of the vote, the polling place where the vote was cast, the legal reason for the vote being prohibited, and whether the individual was prosecuted.</p> <p>Out of the thousands of calls fielded by the Attorney General’s office during the four elections that took place in New York during 2016 (three primary days and one general election day), just two callers alleged voter fraud, according to Schneiderman. The Attorney General’s office investigated one claim and determined the charge was unfounded. The second caller did not provide sufficient information to warrant an investigation in that case.</p> <p>Furthermore, the New York State Board of Elections has not referred a single allegation related to fraudulent voting during the 2016 elections to the Attorney General for investigation or prosecution, according to Schneiderman. “The lack of such complaints made directly to my office, as well as the absence of referrals from other agencies, leads me to conclude that voter fraud—the act of an ineligible individual casting a vote in an election—is a non-issue, at least in New York State,” he wrote in the letter.</p> <p>Unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud have <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/6572-election-commissioner-s-rant-prompts-dispute-over-idnyc-and-voter-id-in-new-york" target="_blank">erupted on the local</a> and national stages in the past year. In October 2016, Manhattan Board of Elections Commissioner Alan Schulkin came under fire after he was secretly filmed alleging that rampant voter fraud exists in New York City, enabled, in part, by Mayor Bill de Blasio’s municipal identification program (which has no relationship with voting given that New York does not have voter identification laws). Schulkin, a Democrat, also claimed organizations in certain neighborhoods bus voters around between districts to fraudulently win seats, apparently making the case for Republican-backed voter ID laws.</p> <p>At the time, City Council Speaker Mark-Viverito blasted Schulkin’s claims as “uninformed opinions” with “no basis in fact” while Mayor Bill de Blasio <a href="http://nypost.com/2016/10/11/assemblyman-demands-elections-official-resign-for-linking-minorities-to-voter-fraud/" target="_blank">called for</a> his resignation. Democratic Party leaders <a href="http://nypost.com/2016/11/16/elections-official-resigns-after-video-blasting-de-blasios-id-program/" target="_blank">decided</a> not to reappoint Schulkin after his term ended in December 31, 2016 -- he continues to serve, though, until a replacement is named and confirmed through the City Council.</p> <p>Trump’s more recent theory that thousands of voters were “bussed in” from Massachusetts to New Hampshire during the presidential election have since been discredited <a href="http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/320361-lewandowski-says-he-didnt-see-evidence-of-trumps-voter-fraud-claims" target="_blank">even by</a> the president’s closest aides.</p> <p>Voter access continues to be a problem given New York’s antiquated electoral system, which has drawn the scorn of many elected officials, advocates, and everyday New Yorkers. In December, the Office of the Attorney General released a comprehensive report detailing the many issues voters faced at the polls during the April 2016 presidential primary election.</p> <p>Last year, Mayor de Blasio outlined a series of voting reforms he wants to see, including early voting and same-day voter registration.</p> <p>As he has before, Governor Andrew Cuomo included <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/6724-cuomo-embraces-voting-reform-agenda-but-implementation-poses-challenges" target="_blank">those measures and others</a> in his 2017 State of the State policy agenda.</p> <p>Attorney General Schneiderman recently <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/6752-attorney-general-unveils-sweeping-voting-reforms-package" target="_blank">introduced the New York Votes Act</a>, which seeks to address many of these ongoing issues by updating the state’s voting systems through early voting, automatic and same-day registration, consolidated primaries, shortened party registration deadlines, and more. Schneiderman also recently filed suit against the New York City Board of Elections for widespread violations that illegally purged over 200,000 New Yorkers from the voter rolls.</p> <p>Republicans in the state Senate <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/6724-cuomo-embraces-voting-reform-agenda-but-implementation-poses-challenges" target="_blank">continue to form</a> the most obvious and entrenched blockade to most of the voting reforms being sought by Cuomo, Schneiderman, and others.</p> <p>“Our democracy is ailing, with too few eligible citizens registered to vote, too few of those who are registered exercising this fundamental right, and too many states devising methods to suppress the vote, rather than encourage participation in our nation’s elections,” <a href="https://ag.ny.gov/sites/default/files/2017.02.22_ltr_to_cummings_brady_clyburn_re_voter_fraud.pdf" target="_blank">Schneiderman wrote</a> to members of Congress. “We would be happy to work with Congress to solve these problems – many of which persist not only in New York but also in states across the country – rather than seek to address the imaginary problem of voter fraud.”</p> <p>

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by Rachel Silberstein, State government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
Cuomo Embraces Voting Reform Agenda, But Implementation Poses Challenges 2017-01-22T05:00:00+00:00 2017-01-22T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6724:cuomo-embraces-voting-reform-agenda-but-implementation-poses-challenges Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/22126244744_93e85a2a46_z_1.jpg" alt="Cuomo voting 2015" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Gov. Cuomo voting (photo: The Governor's Office on flickr)</p> <hr /> <p>During his State of the State tour early this month, Governor Andrew Cuomo proposed a trio of major reforms hailed as important steps toward modernizing New York’s antiquated electoral system and increasing the state’s paltry voter turnout. While they are long-called for proposals that many are pleased to see Cuomo promote, implementing these goals could be more complicated than it may seem.</p> <p>Two of the three reforms, early voting and automatic voter registration, were outlined in Cuomo’s 2016 agenda, but the initiatives failed to move through the Legislature last year due to opposition from Senate Republicans, who control that chamber. It is a power structure that continues into the 2017 session, meaning the road to passage is uphill, and steeply so.</p> <p>New York is one of only about a dozen states without some semblance of early voting. While the state already has a form of automatic voter registration through the Department of Motor Vehicles, Cuomo’s proposal is to streamline and expand the practice. If passed, it would amount to more widespread automatic registration, but not universal.</p> <p>The third electoral proposal from Cuomo, same-day registration, will likely require a constitutional amendment -- meaning approval from two consecutive classes of the state Legislature, then voters via ballot referendum -- a process that would take at least three years. There is some debate among constitutional law experts over whether such an amendment is required for any form of same-day registration, which would allow voters to show up at the polls to both register and vote on the same day.</p> <p>The three reforms are almost universally seen as long overdue in New York. Voter turnout in New York is especially poor: in 2014, the state ranked 49th of the country’s 50 states. While <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/state/6295-there-is-a-long-list-of-voting-reforms-new-york-can-pass" target="_blank">New York has watched many other states change voting laws</a> to increase access to the ballot, the voter turnout deficit here is growing progressively worse, with just 19.7 percent of eligible voters casting their ballots in the 2016 presidential primaries. Turnout numbers have also consistently declined during gubernatorial elections and, in New York City, during mayoral election years.</p> <p>“New York is so far behind the curve on election administration that almost anything is an improvement,” said Susan Lerner, executive director of government reform group Common Cause New York. “I think the governor has picked issues that are very good places to start.”</p> <p>Those with high praise for Cuomo’s 2017 electoral agenda include Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who, after monitoring the state’s four election days of 2016, issued an exhaustive report with areas for reform at the end of the year.</p> <p>"I commend Governor Cuomo for proposing common sense reforms to our voting system. I look forward to working with Governor Cuomo, the legislature, and everyday New Yorkers across our state to address the systemic problems in New York's voting laws,” Schneiderman said in a statement. “New York must become a national leader in voting rights by expanding and protecting the rights of all New Yorkers to cast their vote.”</p> <p>In the statement, Schneiderman also recommended consolidating New York's exhausting voting schedule into a single primary. In 2016, <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6081-concerns-of-voter-fatigue-as-new-york-schedules-four-2016-election-days" target="_blank">there were three</a>: in April for the presidential race; in June for congressional races; and in September for state legislative races.</p> <p>While it is still early to speculate exactly how the Legislature will respond to Cuomo’s electoral reform agenda, there are key early markers, process details, and implementation questions ahead of whatever policy debate may occur.</p> <p>One thing is certain: Democrats in the Assembly, where they have the majority, and in the Senate, where they do not, will be behind the election and voting modernization efforts -- including and beyond Cuomo’s three main proposals. What is less clear is whether the governor will fully push for early voting, automatic voter registration, and same-day registration in budget negotiations, which are just beginning; and whether there is any room for passage in the Republican-controlled Senate, perhaps with the help of the Independent Democratic Conference -- the seven-member body that has formed a ruling coalition with the Senate GOP.</p> <p><strong>Early Voting</strong><br />When it comes to early voting, New York is one of just 13 states without some window wherein voters can cast ballots before Election Day.</p> <p>For several years running, an early voting <a href="https://www.nysenate.gov/legislation/bills/2015/s3813/amendment/b" target="_blank">bill</a> has passed the Assembly, only to be blocked in the Senate.</p> <p>According to Gov. Cuomo’s 2017 proposal, every county would offer residents access to at least one early voting poll site for every 50,000 residents during the 12 days leading up to Election Day. Voters would be guaranteed eight hours on weekdays and five hours on weekends to cast early ballots, and bipartisan county boards of elections would determine locations of the early poll sites.</p> <p>While high voter participation would ideally be a bipartisan issue, New York Republicans -- who cling to control of the state Senate by a tiny margin -- have calculated that better ballot access and more participation is likely to turn out Democratic voters, according Senator Michael Gianaris, a Democrat from Queens and outspoken proponent of voting reform.</p> <p>“These reforms are more necessary than ever and I’m glad they were included in the governor’s presentation, but the problem is Senate Republicans seem to have a personal interest in keeping people from voting,” said Gianaris, a co-sponsor of several packages of electoral legislation. “That's been the biggest hurdle to overcome, because voter restrictions tend to benefit them.”</p> <p>A spokesperson for Senate Republicans did not return multiple requests for comment.</p> <p>A natural partner of early voting is absentee voting. In his State of the State <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/6710-all-of-governor-cuomo-s-2017-state-of-the-state-proposals" target="_blank">policy book</a>, Gov. Cuomo, a second term Democrat, also cited the requirement for absentee ballot voters to provide an excuse, which is written into the state constitution and its removal would require a constitutional amendment.</p> <p><a href="https://www.nysenate.gov/legislation/bills/2015/s4456/amendment/a" target="_blank">A bill</a> to remove this requirement from the constitution has passed the Assembly and is, like other voting reforms, awaiting Senate approval.</p> <p>Senator Joseph Addabbo, who co-sponsored the bill and served as chair of the Senate Election Committee in 2009, said his staff has not looked closely at the governor’s plan yet but expressed hopeful optimism about the governor’s electoral reform agenda.</p> <p>“I’ll say I can embrace a lot of what he’s proposing and now our legal counsel might look at whether and how it can be implemented,” said Addabbo, a Democrat from Queens. “This is a lot of what we’ve worked on and proposed in 2009. We really go through painstaking measures to determine what is going to get voters to vote.”</p> <p>In addition to persuading the Senate majority, Cuomo and Assembly Democrats will have to hash out the details with counties, which, while supportive of early voting, want the governor to include a provision for who would foot the bill -- approximately $3 million per year, according to one estimate -- for the additional polling options.</p> <p>"Despite principled visions on the issue, on the fiscal nature of the cost shift it's unconscionable for the state to be shifting and enacting policies these days in the property-tax-cap era. It should be dead on arrival." Stephen Acquario, executive director of the state Association of Counties, <a href="http://www.app.com/story/news/politics/blogs/vote-up/2016/01/25/early-voting-cuomo-wants-counties-have-concerns/79319216/" target="_blank">told the USA Today Network</a>.</p> <p><strong>Automatic Voter Registration</strong><br />Automatically registering voters when they become eligible or when they come into contact with government agencies is a fairly new concept. Since 2015, automatic voter registration -- which can have different forms and meanings short of universal automatic registration of voters once they become eligible -- has been approved in six states with strong bipartisan support and is taking off across the country, <a href="https://www.brennancenter.org/analysis/automatic-voter-registration" target="_blank">according to</a> the Brennan Center for Justice.</p> <p>The idea is to shift the onus of registering from the individual to the government. In addition to increasing voter registration in other states, automatic voter registration has been shown to have significant benefits for administrators, reduce costs, and improve the accuracy of electronic poll books.</p> <p>Cuomo’s proposal, recycled from last year, would automatically register anyone who comes into contact with a state Department of Motor Vehicles, unless the person chooses to opt out. Currently, eligible voters can register through the DMV, but they must provide additional voting information as they apply for DMV services.</p> <p>Cuomo’s proposed version of automatic registration is preferable to similar bills passed in Oregon and California, which only registers eligible citizens who apply for or renew a driver’s license. However, Cuomo’s plan is not as inclusive as say, <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5963-as-new-yorkers-go-to-the-polls-activists-launch-vote-better-campaign" target="_blank">that which is outlined</a> in New York’s Voter Empowerment Act, sponsored by Senator Gianaris and Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh, which would enable a variety government agencies to automatically register voters.</p> <p>The Brennan Center <a href="https://www.brennancenter.org/sites/default/files/publications/Automatic_Permanent_Voter_Registration_How_It_Works.pdf" target="_blank">outlines four ways</a> that states can modernize their electoral systems with automatic registration. The first, of course, is by automatically registering anyone who interacts with government offices, unless the person declines registration. The second is portability, which ensures that registered voters remain on the voter rolls even after they move within the state. The third, online access, allows voters to register, check, and update their registration records through a web portal. And fourth, the state should provide a “safety net,” that allows citizens to correct errors on the voter rolls or register before and on Election Day.</p> <p>Ideally, automatic registration would occur through many different state-run agencies, reaching well beyond the DMV to the the widest possible segment of eligible voters. There is a sizeable population, especially in urban centers like New York City, that does not drive or interact with the DMV. Broader automatic registration would include:</p> <p>DMVs;&nbsp;Medicaid and public assistance offices; colleges and high schools; military recruiters and other military offices; unemployment and other public benefit offices; firearm licensing agencies; immigration offices; government-funded job-training centers; law enforcement and corrections agencies that interact with people who regain their voting rights after a criminal conviction.</p> <p>Some community groups have raised concerns that tying automatic voter registration to the DMV alone may skew registration number in favor of areas with high rates of car ownership, disproportionality impacting upstate voters over New York City, for example.</p> <p>Researchers at the Brennan Center are exploring whether data can shed light on the concern that automatic registration through the DMV advantages some groups over others.</p> <p>“We recognize that this is a serious concern for some important groups and we want to take a close look at this question,” said Chisun Lee, senior counsel at the Brennan Center’s Democracy Program. “We are hopeful that the net benefits for increasing the franchise, and reaching voters who otherwise wouldn't be enrolled, will be positive for all.”</p> <p><strong>Same-Day Voter Registration</strong><br />Same-day voter registration, perhaps the boldest of Cuomo’s proposals, would allow New Yorkers to register and vote on the same day.</p> <p>Currently, New Yorkers must register to vote 25 days prior to an election, though the state constitution's requirement is only ten days. Depending on how it would be implemented, same-day registration may require a constitutional amendment. However, if early voting is passed, there are legal experts who argue that the constitution would allow same-day registration for those who vote prior to ten days before Election Day.</p> <p>Again, a constitutional amendment is typically at minimum a three-year process which would require two “yes” votes from consecutive Legislatures and the passage of referendum on the following year’s general election ballot.</p> <p>Alternately, a “yes” vote on the constitutional convention referendum, which will be on the ballot this November, could provide another avenue to remove restrictions and institute reforms like same-day registration.</p> <p>At this point, 13 states and the District of Columbia have same-day voter registration, and California, Vermont, and Hawaii have approved the provision, though it has not yet been implemented, according to Cuomo’s office.</p> <p>The upcoming opportunity to amend the state constitution via constitutional convention, which, for New Yorkers, appears as a ballot referendum every 20 years will be&nbsp;November 7, 2017. A constitutional convention is a four-year public <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/859-constitutional-convention" target="_blank">process</a> that could result significant changes to the entire document and laws of the state. If New Yorkers say “yes” to a convention on this year’s ballot, a year later, voters will select delegates to participate in the convention; the following year, in 2019, the convention will convene; and voters will be able to vote on any proposed changes the following Election Day.</p> <p>Like with the electoral and voting reforms Gov. Cuomo has proposed, he <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/6720-constitutional-convention-absent-from-cuomo-s-2017-agenda" target="_blank">has expressed varying degrees of support</a> for a "yes" vote on a constitutional convention, but whether the governor <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/6720-constitutional-convention-absent-from-cuomo-s-2017-agenda" target="_blank">takes significant action</a>&nbsp;will go a long way toward determining the outcome.</p> <p>

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by Rachel Silberstein, State government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/22126244744_93e85a2a46_z_1.jpg" alt="Cuomo voting 2015" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Gov. Cuomo voting (photo: The Governor's Office on flickr)</p> <hr /> <p>During his State of the State tour early this month, Governor Andrew Cuomo proposed a trio of major reforms hailed as important steps toward modernizing New York’s antiquated electoral system and increasing the state’s paltry voter turnout. While they are long-called for proposals that many are pleased to see Cuomo promote, implementing these goals could be more complicated than it may seem.</p> <p>Two of the three reforms, early voting and automatic voter registration, were outlined in Cuomo’s 2016 agenda, but the initiatives failed to move through the Legislature last year due to opposition from Senate Republicans, who control that chamber. It is a power structure that continues into the 2017 session, meaning the road to passage is uphill, and steeply so.</p> <p>New York is one of only about a dozen states without some semblance of early voting. While the state already has a form of automatic voter registration through the Department of Motor Vehicles, Cuomo’s proposal is to streamline and expand the practice. If passed, it would amount to more widespread automatic registration, but not universal.</p> <p>The third electoral proposal from Cuomo, same-day registration, will likely require a constitutional amendment -- meaning approval from two consecutive classes of the state Legislature, then voters via ballot referendum -- a process that would take at least three years. There is some debate among constitutional law experts over whether such an amendment is required for any form of same-day registration, which would allow voters to show up at the polls to both register and vote on the same day.</p> <p>The three reforms are almost universally seen as long overdue in New York. Voter turnout in New York is especially poor: in 2014, the state ranked 49th of the country’s 50 states. While <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/state/6295-there-is-a-long-list-of-voting-reforms-new-york-can-pass" target="_blank">New York has watched many other states change voting laws</a> to increase access to the ballot, the voter turnout deficit here is growing progressively worse, with just 19.7 percent of eligible voters casting their ballots in the 2016 presidential primaries. Turnout numbers have also consistently declined during gubernatorial elections and, in New York City, during mayoral election years.</p> <p>“New York is so far behind the curve on election administration that almost anything is an improvement,” said Susan Lerner, executive director of government reform group Common Cause New York. “I think the governor has picked issues that are very good places to start.”</p> <p>Those with high praise for Cuomo’s 2017 electoral agenda include Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who, after monitoring the state’s four election days of 2016, issued an exhaustive report with areas for reform at the end of the year.</p> <p>"I commend Governor Cuomo for proposing common sense reforms to our voting system. I look forward to working with Governor Cuomo, the legislature, and everyday New Yorkers across our state to address the systemic problems in New York's voting laws,” Schneiderman said in a statement. “New York must become a national leader in voting rights by expanding and protecting the rights of all New Yorkers to cast their vote.”</p> <p>In the statement, Schneiderman also recommended consolidating New York's exhausting voting schedule into a single primary. In 2016, <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6081-concerns-of-voter-fatigue-as-new-york-schedules-four-2016-election-days" target="_blank">there were three</a>: in April for the presidential race; in June for congressional races; and in September for state legislative races.</p> <p>While it is still early to speculate exactly how the Legislature will respond to Cuomo’s electoral reform agenda, there are key early markers, process details, and implementation questions ahead of whatever policy debate may occur.</p> <p>One thing is certain: Democrats in the Assembly, where they have the majority, and in the Senate, where they do not, will be behind the election and voting modernization efforts -- including and beyond Cuomo’s three main proposals. What is less clear is whether the governor will fully push for early voting, automatic voter registration, and same-day registration in budget negotiations, which are just beginning; and whether there is any room for passage in the Republican-controlled Senate, perhaps with the help of the Independent Democratic Conference -- the seven-member body that has formed a ruling coalition with the Senate GOP.</p> <p><strong>Early Voting</strong><br />When it comes to early voting, New York is one of just 13 states without some window wherein voters can cast ballots before Election Day.</p> <p>For several years running, an early voting <a href="https://www.nysenate.gov/legislation/bills/2015/s3813/amendment/b" target="_blank">bill</a> has passed the Assembly, only to be blocked in the Senate.</p> <p>According to Gov. Cuomo’s 2017 proposal, every county would offer residents access to at least one early voting poll site for every 50,000 residents during the 12 days leading up to Election Day. Voters would be guaranteed eight hours on weekdays and five hours on weekends to cast early ballots, and bipartisan county boards of elections would determine locations of the early poll sites.</p> <p>While high voter participation would ideally be a bipartisan issue, New York Republicans -- who cling to control of the state Senate by a tiny margin -- have calculated that better ballot access and more participation is likely to turn out Democratic voters, according Senator Michael Gianaris, a Democrat from Queens and outspoken proponent of voting reform.</p> <p>“These reforms are more necessary than ever and I’m glad they were included in the governor’s presentation, but the problem is Senate Republicans seem to have a personal interest in keeping people from voting,” said Gianaris, a co-sponsor of several packages of electoral legislation. “That's been the biggest hurdle to overcome, because voter restrictions tend to benefit them.”</p> <p>A spokesperson for Senate Republicans did not return multiple requests for comment.</p> <p>A natural partner of early voting is absentee voting. In his State of the State <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/6710-all-of-governor-cuomo-s-2017-state-of-the-state-proposals" target="_blank">policy book</a>, Gov. Cuomo, a second term Democrat, also cited the requirement for absentee ballot voters to provide an excuse, which is written into the state constitution and its removal would require a constitutional amendment.</p> <p><a href="https://www.nysenate.gov/legislation/bills/2015/s4456/amendment/a" target="_blank">A bill</a> to remove this requirement from the constitution has passed the Assembly and is, like other voting reforms, awaiting Senate approval.</p> <p>Senator Joseph Addabbo, who co-sponsored the bill and served as chair of the Senate Election Committee in 2009, said his staff has not looked closely at the governor’s plan yet but expressed hopeful optimism about the governor’s electoral reform agenda.</p> <p>“I’ll say I can embrace a lot of what he’s proposing and now our legal counsel might look at whether and how it can be implemented,” said Addabbo, a Democrat from Queens. “This is a lot of what we’ve worked on and proposed in 2009. We really go through painstaking measures to determine what is going to get voters to vote.”</p> <p>In addition to persuading the Senate majority, Cuomo and Assembly Democrats will have to hash out the details with counties, which, while supportive of early voting, want the governor to include a provision for who would foot the bill -- approximately $3 million per year, according to one estimate -- for the additional polling options.</p> <p>"Despite principled visions on the issue, on the fiscal nature of the cost shift it's unconscionable for the state to be shifting and enacting policies these days in the property-tax-cap era. It should be dead on arrival." Stephen Acquario, executive director of the state Association of Counties, <a href="http://www.app.com/story/news/politics/blogs/vote-up/2016/01/25/early-voting-cuomo-wants-counties-have-concerns/79319216/" target="_blank">told the USA Today Network</a>.</p> <p><strong>Automatic Voter Registration</strong><br />Automatically registering voters when they become eligible or when they come into contact with government agencies is a fairly new concept. Since 2015, automatic voter registration -- which can have different forms and meanings short of universal automatic registration of voters once they become eligible -- has been approved in six states with strong bipartisan support and is taking off across the country, <a href="https://www.brennancenter.org/analysis/automatic-voter-registration" target="_blank">according to</a> the Brennan Center for Justice.</p> <p>The idea is to shift the onus of registering from the individual to the government. In addition to increasing voter registration in other states, automatic voter registration has been shown to have significant benefits for administrators, reduce costs, and improve the accuracy of electronic poll books.</p> <p>Cuomo’s proposal, recycled from last year, would automatically register anyone who comes into contact with a state Department of Motor Vehicles, unless the person chooses to opt out. Currently, eligible voters can register through the DMV, but they must provide additional voting information as they apply for DMV services.</p> <p>Cuomo’s proposed version of automatic registration is preferable to similar bills passed in Oregon and California, which only registers eligible citizens who apply for or renew a driver’s license. However, Cuomo’s plan is not as inclusive as say, <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5963-as-new-yorkers-go-to-the-polls-activists-launch-vote-better-campaign" target="_blank">that which is outlined</a> in New York’s Voter Empowerment Act, sponsored by Senator Gianaris and Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh, which would enable a variety government agencies to automatically register voters.</p> <p>The Brennan Center <a href="https://www.brennancenter.org/sites/default/files/publications/Automatic_Permanent_Voter_Registration_How_It_Works.pdf" target="_blank">outlines four ways</a> that states can modernize their electoral systems with automatic registration. The first, of course, is by automatically registering anyone who interacts with government offices, unless the person declines registration. The second is portability, which ensures that registered voters remain on the voter rolls even after they move within the state. The third, online access, allows voters to register, check, and update their registration records through a web portal. And fourth, the state should provide a “safety net,” that allows citizens to correct errors on the voter rolls or register before and on Election Day.</p> <p>Ideally, automatic registration would occur through many different state-run agencies, reaching well beyond the DMV to the the widest possible segment of eligible voters. There is a sizeable population, especially in urban centers like New York City, that does not drive or interact with the DMV. Broader automatic registration would include:</p> <p>DMVs;&nbsp;Medicaid and public assistance offices; colleges and high schools; military recruiters and other military offices; unemployment and other public benefit offices; firearm licensing agencies; immigration offices; government-funded job-training centers; law enforcement and corrections agencies that interact with people who regain their voting rights after a criminal conviction.</p> <p>Some community groups have raised concerns that tying automatic voter registration to the DMV alone may skew registration number in favor of areas with high rates of car ownership, disproportionality impacting upstate voters over New York City, for example.</p> <p>Researchers at the Brennan Center are exploring whether data can shed light on the concern that automatic registration through the DMV advantages some groups over others.</p> <p>“We recognize that this is a serious concern for some important groups and we want to take a close look at this question,” said Chisun Lee, senior counsel at the Brennan Center’s Democracy Program. “We are hopeful that the net benefits for increasing the franchise, and reaching voters who otherwise wouldn't be enrolled, will be positive for all.”</p> <p><strong>Same-Day Voter Registration</strong><br />Same-day voter registration, perhaps the boldest of Cuomo’s proposals, would allow New Yorkers to register and vote on the same day.</p> <p>Currently, New Yorkers must register to vote 25 days prior to an election, though the state constitution's requirement is only ten days. Depending on how it would be implemented, same-day registration may require a constitutional amendment. However, if early voting is passed, there are legal experts who argue that the constitution would allow same-day registration for those who vote prior to ten days before Election Day.</p> <p>Again, a constitutional amendment is typically at minimum a three-year process which would require two “yes” votes from consecutive Legislatures and the passage of referendum on the following year’s general election ballot.</p> <p>Alternately, a “yes” vote on the constitutional convention referendum, which will be on the ballot this November, could provide another avenue to remove restrictions and institute reforms like same-day registration.</p> <p>At this point, 13 states and the District of Columbia have same-day voter registration, and California, Vermont, and Hawaii have approved the provision, though it has not yet been implemented, according to Cuomo’s office.</p> <p>The upcoming opportunity to amend the state constitution via constitutional convention, which, for New Yorkers, appears as a ballot referendum every 20 years will be&nbsp;November 7, 2017. A constitutional convention is a four-year public <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/859-constitutional-convention" target="_blank">process</a> that could result significant changes to the entire document and laws of the state. If New Yorkers say “yes” to a convention on this year’s ballot, a year later, voters will select delegates to participate in the convention; the following year, in 2019, the convention will convene; and voters will be able to vote on any proposed changes the following Election Day.</p> <p>Like with the electoral and voting reforms Gov. Cuomo has proposed, he <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/6720-constitutional-convention-absent-from-cuomo-s-2017-agenda" target="_blank">has expressed varying degrees of support</a> for a "yes" vote on a constitutional convention, but whether the governor <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/6720-constitutional-convention-absent-from-cuomo-s-2017-agenda" target="_blank">takes significant action</a>&nbsp;will go a long way toward determining the outcome.</p> <p>

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by Rachel Silberstein, State government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
De Blasio Appeals for Support in Pushing Albany on Voting Reform 2016-11-18T05:00:00+00:00 2016-11-18T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6631:de-blasio-appeals-for-support-in-pushing-albany-on-voting-reform Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/30899955462_ac0d3c2fed_z.jpg" width="600" height="399" alt="bdb speech flag" /></p> <p>Mayor de Blasio (photo:&nbsp;Edwin J. Torres/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>In order to improve New York’s dismal voter turnout rates, it’s necessary to “shake the foundations of things,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio in his keynote speech at a voter turnout symposium at New York Law School on Friday.</p> <p>Speaking to an audience of more than a hundred people, many of them advocates of voting and election reform, the mayor made a forceful appeal to reinforce his recent call for reform bills in Albany. De Blasio lamented the fact that New York is well behind dozens of other states in making voter registration and the act of voting easier and asked those in attendance to help him push the state government to act.</p> <p>“We know that the system as it’s currently structured under our state law literally cannot keep up with the reality of our modern democracy,” de Blasio said, bemoaning the state’s “arcane” electoral laws kept in place by entrenched lawmakers in Albany. “This state, this theoretically progressive modern state, when it comes to electoral laws, shows no evidence of being progressive and innovative and modern,” he added.</p> <p>De Blasio is calling for same-day voter registration, early voting, electronic poll-books, and other reforms, including wholesale restructuring of the state law that governs the city Board of Elections. Promising to push state lawmakers in the coming months, de Blasio told the crowd that the status quo is not working. “Now we have to take this battle to Albany, once and for all. And I hope you will join me in that,” he said.</p> <p>The symposium was hosted by Citizens Union, a government reform group, and co-sponsored by a number of organizations that promote voting reform and ballot accessibility. De Blasio’s keynote came after several panels on issues related to voting and elections that featured elected officials, advocates, and other experts. One participant was Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh, a Manhattan Democrat who sponsors a variety of the related bills in Albany, where they have passed the Democratically-controlled Assembly, but not the Republican-controlled Senate. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has expressed his support for the slate of election and voting reforms.</p> <p>In the run up to the November 8 general election, and in the days since, the mayor has shown <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/city/6629-taking-up-voting-reform-de-blasio-cites-sanders-campaign-as-motivation" target="_blank">a renewed interest in voting reform</a>. He held a major news conference the day before the state deadline for voters to register for the general election, hosted a number of Get-Out-The-Vote events before and on Election Day, and has been vocal about the need for reform on radio and television appearances.</p> <p>On Friday, he reiterated his call for reforms, again citing the Bernie Sanders presidential campaign as motivation, and saying that in their absence the state has passively disenfranchised millions of voters. There are roughly 2 million eligible voters in New York State who are unregistered, he said, 1 million of whom live in New York City alone.</p> <p>In the 2016 election, only 52.4 percent of voting-eligible New Yorkers cast a ballot, the 7th lowest turnout rate in the country and below the national rate of 58.1 percent, according to materials from Citizens Union handed out at the event. While voter participation has been increasing in recent election cycles, New York has consistently ranked below the national average turnout since 2000.</p> <p>On the national level, the mayor spoke of the need to do away with the electoral college system, which allows a presidential candidate to be victorious without winning the popular vote. (Case in point, de Blasio-backed Hillary Clinton’s popular vote lead over President-elect Donald Trump has surpassed 1 million votes.) He also criticized the Citizens United Supreme Court verdict, as he often does, for facilitating the entry of massive amounts of money and corporate interests into elections. (De Blasio and his allies are the subject of multiple law enforcement investigations, including around whether the de Blasio administration did favors for donors to a political nonprofit the mayor's allies established. No one has been charged and de Blasio maintains no laws were broken.)</p> <p>Closer to home, de Blasio called out the city Board of Elections, saying it would be a more efficient agency if he was allowed to manage it, if it was restructured, or if it at least accepted his offer of $20 million in exchange for substantive reform.</p> <p>The mayor was preceded by reform advocates who delved into the myriad issues with voting in New York. They cited the lack of civics education in schools, the control exerted by political party machinery, a trust deficit in the political system, and voter fatigue as a few of the many reasons that the state has one of the lowest turnout rates in the country.</p> <p>De Blasio was introduced by Dick Dadey, executive director of Citizens Union, who thanked the mayor for his attention to voting and election reform. Dadey also praised the mayor for following through on campaign promises and remembered first collaborating with de Blasio in the early 1990s when the current mayor was an aide to then-Mayor David Dinkins and the two worked on advancing LGBT rights.</p> <p>“There is a status quo that is not working for a lot of people in this city, in this state, in this country,” de Blasio said of the political machinery and bureaucracy. “We have to be the ones to break through. I think this is one of those historical moments. It is our time, the momentum is with us, all of us who want reform.”</p> <p>

***
by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, 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><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/30899955462_ac0d3c2fed_z.jpg" width="600" height="399" alt="bdb speech flag" /></p> <p>Mayor de Blasio (photo:&nbsp;Edwin J. Torres/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>In order to improve New York’s dismal voter turnout rates, it’s necessary to “shake the foundations of things,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio in his keynote speech at a voter turnout symposium at New York Law School on Friday.</p> <p>Speaking to an audience of more than a hundred people, many of them advocates of voting and election reform, the mayor made a forceful appeal to reinforce his recent call for reform bills in Albany. De Blasio lamented the fact that New York is well behind dozens of other states in making voter registration and the act of voting easier and asked those in attendance to help him push the state government to act.</p> <p>“We know that the system as it’s currently structured under our state law literally cannot keep up with the reality of our modern democracy,” de Blasio said, bemoaning the state’s “arcane” electoral laws kept in place by entrenched lawmakers in Albany. “This state, this theoretically progressive modern state, when it comes to electoral laws, shows no evidence of being progressive and innovative and modern,” he added.</p> <p>De Blasio is calling for same-day voter registration, early voting, electronic poll-books, and other reforms, including wholesale restructuring of the state law that governs the city Board of Elections. Promising to push state lawmakers in the coming months, de Blasio told the crowd that the status quo is not working. “Now we have to take this battle to Albany, once and for all. And I hope you will join me in that,” he said.</p> <p>The symposium was hosted by Citizens Union, a government reform group, and co-sponsored by a number of organizations that promote voting reform and ballot accessibility. De Blasio’s keynote came after several panels on issues related to voting and elections that featured elected officials, advocates, and other experts. One participant was Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh, a Manhattan Democrat who sponsors a variety of the related bills in Albany, where they have passed the Democratically-controlled Assembly, but not the Republican-controlled Senate. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has expressed his support for the slate of election and voting reforms.</p> <p>In the run up to the November 8 general election, and in the days since, the mayor has shown <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/city/6629-taking-up-voting-reform-de-blasio-cites-sanders-campaign-as-motivation" target="_blank">a renewed interest in voting reform</a>. He held a major news conference the day before the state deadline for voters to register for the general election, hosted a number of Get-Out-The-Vote events before and on Election Day, and has been vocal about the need for reform on radio and television appearances.</p> <p>On Friday, he reiterated his call for reforms, again citing the Bernie Sanders presidential campaign as motivation, and saying that in their absence the state has passively disenfranchised millions of voters. There are roughly 2 million eligible voters in New York State who are unregistered, he said, 1 million of whom live in New York City alone.</p> <p>In the 2016 election, only 52.4 percent of voting-eligible New Yorkers cast a ballot, the 7th lowest turnout rate in the country and below the national rate of 58.1 percent, according to materials from Citizens Union handed out at the event. While voter participation has been increasing in recent election cycles, New York has consistently ranked below the national average turnout since 2000.</p> <p>On the national level, the mayor spoke of the need to do away with the electoral college system, which allows a presidential candidate to be victorious without winning the popular vote. (Case in point, de Blasio-backed Hillary Clinton’s popular vote lead over President-elect Donald Trump has surpassed 1 million votes.) He also criticized the Citizens United Supreme Court verdict, as he often does, for facilitating the entry of massive amounts of money and corporate interests into elections. (De Blasio and his allies are the subject of multiple law enforcement investigations, including around whether the de Blasio administration did favors for donors to a political nonprofit the mayor's allies established. No one has been charged and de Blasio maintains no laws were broken.)</p> <p>Closer to home, de Blasio called out the city Board of Elections, saying it would be a more efficient agency if he was allowed to manage it, if it was restructured, or if it at least accepted his offer of $20 million in exchange for substantive reform.</p> <p>The mayor was preceded by reform advocates who delved into the myriad issues with voting in New York. They cited the lack of civics education in schools, the control exerted by political party machinery, a trust deficit in the political system, and voter fatigue as a few of the many reasons that the state has one of the lowest turnout rates in the country.</p> <p>De Blasio was introduced by Dick Dadey, executive director of Citizens Union, who thanked the mayor for his attention to voting and election reform. Dadey also praised the mayor for following through on campaign promises and remembered first collaborating with de Blasio in the early 1990s when the current mayor was an aide to then-Mayor David Dinkins and the two worked on advancing LGBT rights.</p> <p>“There is a status quo that is not working for a lot of people in this city, in this state, in this country,” de Blasio said of the political machinery and bureaucracy. “We have to be the ones to break through. I think this is one of those historical moments. It is our time, the momentum is with us, all of us who want reform.”</p> <p>

***
by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, 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>
Taking Up Voting Reform, De Blasio Cites Sanders Campaign as Motivation 2016-11-16T05:00:00+00:00 2016-11-16T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6629:taking-up-voting-reform-de-blasio-cites-sanders-campaign-as-motivation Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/29677941203_f4e0259aaf_z.jpg" alt="de blasio register to vote brooklyn" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>De Blasio registers a voter (photo:&nbsp;Edwin J. Torres/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>As Public Advocate, Bill de Blasio strongly pushed for voting reform in New York, but as Mayor, it has not been high on his list of priorities. Last month, with Election Day around the corner, that seemed to change as de Blasio renewed his call for a system that will encourage voting in a state with one of the lowest voter turnout rates in the country.</p> <p>The advocacy comes just ahead of de Blasio’s re-election year and is spurred in part, the mayor said, by the enthusiasm stirred up by Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who de Blasio did not support in the Democratic presidential primary. It also requires action in Albany and an opportunity for the mayor to work collaboratively with Governor Andrew Cuomo, whom the mayor has been feuding with for years, on reforms the two agree on.</p> <p>On <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qf5_5EYBMsk" target="_blank">October 13</a>, one day before the state’s voter registration deadline for new voters wishing to vote November 8, de Blasio spent about 30 minutes registering voters in downtown Brooklyn. He then headed indoors for a news conference, where he was accompanied by elected officials, government reform advocates, and representatives of the city Campaign Finance Board. The mayor called on the state Legislature to pass broad voting and election reforms, including same-day voter registration, early voting, “no excuse” absentee voting, electronic poll books, consolidation of primary elections, reformatting ballots to make them more user-friendly, and pre-registration of 16- and 17-year-olds.</p> <p>Many of these reforms have been stalled in Albany, and de Blasio declared he was going to be part of a major push to see them passed in 2017, when the Legislature is back in session.&nbsp;“The bottom line is...the laws of New York State discourage participation in the democratic process,” de Blasio said. “Because everyone’s eyes are on election matters right now, we wanted to take this moment to make very, very clear that New York City and all of us here are going to be very, very actively engaged in a campaign to change state law in the coming months to finally make this a state that’s voter friendly, to finally make this a state where people can participate and not be disenfranchised.”</p> <p>De Blasio had been mostly quiet on these issues over the nearly three years of his term and held the news conference with no chance that Albany lawmakers could enact reforms for the 2016 elections even if they wanted to. But he credits his renewed interest to a reinvigorated national conversation about voter enfranchisement and issues in New York, both highlighted by the Sanders campaign.</p> <p>The mayor also asked the federal government to clear a backlog of pending naturalization applications, which would add about 57,000 new eligible voters to the rolls in New York alone, and more than 500,000 across the country.</p> <p>The city expanded its efforts to register voters this year, providing voter registration forms in 16 languages when the state only requires five and allowing registration for people that take civil service exams through the Department of Citywide Administrative Services. The administration also organized a voter registration drive in partnership with 12 street food vendors across the five boroughs, promoted on Twitter with the hashtag <a href="https://twitter.com/search?q=#NoshTheVote&amp;src=typd" target="_blank">#NoshTheVote</a>.</p> <p>A day after the news conference, the mayor <a href="http://www.wnyc.org/story/ask-mayor-10-13" target="_blank">appeared on WNYC’s The Brian Lehrer Show</a> for his weekly “Ask The Mayor” segment. He reiterated his appeal for voting reform, calling the state’s system “arcane” and blaming the “political class” for keeping participation low. “[New York] has got a set of voting standards that are some of the least effective, least inviting in the country,” de Blasio said. “It makes it hard for people to register, hard for people to vote."</p> <p>The mayor has time and again commended Senator Sanders’ campaign for bringing significant attention to voting reform around the April 19 primary election in New York. There were confused voters who were ineligible but tried to show up and vote for Sanders in a closed party primary, but also mismanagement by the city Board of Elections, with tens of thousands of Brooklyn voters inappropriately purged from the voter rolls ahead of the primary.</p> <p>At a November 4 news conference, Gotham Gazette asked the mayor why he hadn’t been vocal about voting and election reform earlier, in order to pressure Albany well ahead of the election, and what Governor Cuomo’s role should be in pushing for reforms.</p> <p>“I think [Governor Cuomo] needs to prioritize these reforms or the people will do it for him,” de Blasio said. He also explained that the Sanders campaign was a key impetus for change, adding, “I think a lot of us were disgusted by the New York State voting laws years ago and thought they were unmovable, particularly with a Republican Senate that was not going to be friendly to voting reform. What’s happened different, I think the Bernie Sanders campaign changed the entire national discussion, certainly what we saw happen in the primary did, but, again, not with such speed that it was going to make it something that could be achieved by the end of this last June.” De Blasio was referring to the June end of the state legislative session.</p> <p>With the Republicans likely to maintain control of the Senate going into next year, little has changed in Albany and those voting reforms may yet be unmovable. But the mayor has insisted he will work with state legislators and with the governor to push for reform. “I would happily, there’s no question,” de Blasio said at the news conference, when asked if he would work with Cuomo, a fellow Democrat but often the mayor’s political nemesis. “I want to get it done and I’ll work with anyone on either side of the aisle who wants to get it done,” de Blasio said. “So, I could happily work with the governor.”</p> <p>Although de Blasio has taken inspiration from Sanders, he doesn’t agree with the senator’s criticism of the closed primary system or calls for open primaries in New York. “I believe that parties mean something,” de Blasio said at the Oct. 13 news conference, “and if you’re going to determine the choice of a party, you should be a member of the party.” He said the closed primary system prevents interference from voters that strategically “jump into the opposite primary just for the day and then jump back out.”</p> <p>De Blasio has also been vocal in his support for administrative reform and even <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/389-16/mayor-de-blasio-make-20-million-available-city-board-elections-vital-reforms" target="_blank">offered</a> the New York City Board of Elections $20 million in funding if it agreed to institute crucial changes. But the board, which is governed by state law and notoriously inept, did not accept the funding.</p> <p>Dick Dadey, executive director of Citizens Union, a government reform group, was one of those present at the October 13 news conference. Dadey acknowledges that de Blasio may be late to the effort, but does not fault him for it. “I know personally that he believes strongly in this needed issue of reform but clearly decided to wait until a later time in his term to deal with this,” he said. “That it’s coming on the eve of his own reelection battle is not lost on anyone as to the likely coincidence and the rationale.”</p> <p>Indeed, de Blasio’s campaign Twitter account pledged a fight for election reform: “We're going to reform NYS' voting access laws, because lack of early voting &amp; same day registration is disenfranchisement, plain and simple,” read <a href="https://twitter.com/BilldeBlasio/status/798538162322685952" target="_blank">a tweet</a> from the account sent out Tuesday morning.</p> <p>The mayor had other priorities in his first three years, such as implementing universal pre-kindergarten, expanding access to paid sick leave, creating affordable housing, and moving the NYPD into a new era of neighborhood policing while keeping crime down. Voting and election reform, largely state issues, have not been on the mayor’s radar, though his state legislative affairs office has sent memos to lawmakers in support of legislation, which has foundered in the Republican-controlled Senate.</p> <p>De Blasio has made annual trips to Albany to testify at budget hearings, at which he outlines key city priorities. Voting and election reform have not been mentioned.</p> <p>“Do I wish that Mayor de Blasio had weighed in earlier on some important reform issues like he did when he was Public Advocate and his first news conference was on public oversight and police misconduct? Definitely, yes,” Dadey said. “But I also know that there are a lot of issues and priorities that needed to be addressed and [voting reform] was simply not one of them, unfortunately.”</p> <p>Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg <a href="http://www.politico.com/story/2010/12/bloomberg-pitches-voting-reforms-046066" target="_blank">pushed for</a> his favored voting reforms at different points, and he supports the open primary system that de Blasio does not. (Bloomberg is a Democrat-turned-Republican-turned-independent.)</p> <p>Governor Cuomo has been in support of the measures de Blasio is now pushing, as has the Democrat-controlled State Assembly, which has time and again passed such bills, which fail in the Senate. Cuomo has not been a forceful public voice on the issues either, even if he does back early voting and other reforms. He’s included them in his State of the State speeches or policy books, but has done little else to publicly promote the reforms.</p> <p>Despite their agreement on the need for voting and election reforms, there is no indication, other than a few vague comments, that the two will coordinate their efforts to push the issue in Albany.</p> <p>In his 2015 State of the State address, the governor included a number of voting reforms in his list of legislative priorities, which were echoed in what de Blasio recently outlined. “Governor Cuomo has fought tirelessly to ensure New York's elections are fair, inclusive, and open,” said spokesperson Abbey Fashouer, in an email. “The Governor will continue to work with all state and local partners to strengthen the democratic process and ensure every New Yorker has the opportunity to make their vote count and their voices heard.”</p> <p>The governor can often bring Republicans to the table on issues that he favors, like the minimum wage, marriage equality, and more. He has not made voting reforms a top priority.</p> <p>Freddi Goldstein, a spokesperson for the mayor, defended the timing of de Blasio’s renewed efforts in a phone interview with Gotham Gazette. It was important, she said, to piggyback off the election to grab people’s attention. “We need to talk to people when they're listening, and this has been a great opportunity,” she said. Goldstein also sought to dispel the idea that the mayor hasn’t consistently focused on the issue.</p> <p>The mayor does not submit a legislative agenda to the State but does testify before legislators each year. Although his testimony this year did not include any reference to voting reform, Goldstein said the mayor’s team in Albany works behind the scenes on such legislative issues. “Just because we're not talking about these things publicly doesn't mean we're not working on it,” she said. City Hall issues legislative memos to Albany on bills and has done so on voting and election reform, according to copies of such memos reviewed by Gotham Gazette.</p> <p>City Council Member Ben Kallos, who chairs the committee on governmental operations, said in a phone interview that “All of these [reforms] should’ve happened before Election Day and if there’s an Albany special session it should be part of that agenda. The voters shouldn’t let their elected officials go back to Albany without getting this done.”</p> <p>The City Council has consistently advocated for voting and election reform in its annual <a href="http://council.nyc.gov/downloads/pdf/state-agenda-updated-final-2015-4pm.pdf" target="_blank">state legislative agenda</a>, including early voting, instant runoff voting for citywide primaries, and public campaign financing at the state level. De Blasio has said he has concerns about instant runoff voting but hasn’t taken a full position. The mayor has consistently called for campaign finance reform, calling the city’s public matching system a gold standard that the state should follow. Cuomo has professed support for such a system but has not gotten one passed and enacted.</p> <p>Kallos says he recognizes that the mayor hasn’t been able to prioritize election reform over other items on his agenda. “I think that we needed attention to this in 2014,” he said. “The mayor and I were able to advocate together for universal pre-kindergarten but election reforms weren’t on that list…I think that when we have so few people engaged in voting and such low turnout, people need to put good government on the same plane as things like universal pre-kindergarten.”</p> <p>He emphasized that elected officials should look beyond their own self-interest and vote for election and voting reform, and that voters need to speak up. “Anyone who waited in line, anyone who had trouble voting, needs to make their voices heard to their elected officials,” Kallos said, “and Albany needs to finally make these changes even if it isn’t in the interest of incumbents…Ultimately in 2017, we will have a vote on the Constitutional Convention, and if Albany won’t act then the electors might.”</p> <p>Indeed, one of the reasons that those who are supportive of a “yes” vote for a state Constitutional Convention believe it could be an opportunity to institute long-sought government, voting, election, and campaign finance reforms.</p> <p>Prior to November 8, voting reform was one issue that de Blasio <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/state/6605-cuomo-and-de-blasio-outline-priorities-for-a-democratic-senate-with-a-lot-in-common" target="_blank">mentioned as a priority</a> if the Democrats were able to take control of the state Senate from the Republicans. While there are two Long Island races still being counted that could change things, it appears that Republicans will continue their hold on the state Senate, putting a dent in de Blasio’s hopes for voting reform and other priorities, like a lengthy extension of mayoral control of city schools.</p> <p>Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh, a Manhattan Democrat, has been a staunch proponent of election reform, sponsoring many of the relevant bills that have passed his chamber, and he lays the failure of reform proposals at the feet of Senate Republicans. Kavanagh said he strongly supports the mayor’s and governor’s efforts on the issue, and denied that de Blasio has been passive. “I think [Mayor de Blasio’s] push to focus on changing these laws is important,” said Kavanagh, who participated in de Blasio’s October press conference. “He’s not operating in a vacuum but he’s also not late to the party. He’s been pushing both as mayor and even before he was mayor.”</p> <p>“I think the appropriate thing is to fault the Republican Senate majority,” Kavanagh said, insisting that the governor and the Independent Democratic Conference in the Senate have also backed the Assembly’s direction on election reform under Speaker Carl Heastie, a Bronx Democrat. “This is not Democratic election reform,” he said. “This is common sense voting reform that will benefit everybody...Republicans and Democrats should be able to agree on these.” Multiple requests for comment sent to Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan’s office were not returned.</p> <p>Dadey, from Citizens Union, had a few words of advice for de Blasio. “If the mayor is rejoining the fight for voting and election reform,” he said, “then he should really reach out proactively with the non-profit organizations that work with this to develop a collective agenda and strategy plan, but also engage the elected officials who represent the City of New York who are involved in these issues as well. It’s not as if he’s the first elected official to be talking about these issues.”</p> <p>

***
by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, 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><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/29677941203_f4e0259aaf_z.jpg" alt="de blasio register to vote brooklyn" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>De Blasio registers a voter (photo:&nbsp;Edwin J. Torres/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>As Public Advocate, Bill de Blasio strongly pushed for voting reform in New York, but as Mayor, it has not been high on his list of priorities. Last month, with Election Day around the corner, that seemed to change as de Blasio renewed his call for a system that will encourage voting in a state with one of the lowest voter turnout rates in the country.</p> <p>The advocacy comes just ahead of de Blasio’s re-election year and is spurred in part, the mayor said, by the enthusiasm stirred up by Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who de Blasio did not support in the Democratic presidential primary. It also requires action in Albany and an opportunity for the mayor to work collaboratively with Governor Andrew Cuomo, whom the mayor has been feuding with for years, on reforms the two agree on.</p> <p>On <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qf5_5EYBMsk" target="_blank">October 13</a>, one day before the state’s voter registration deadline for new voters wishing to vote November 8, de Blasio spent about 30 minutes registering voters in downtown Brooklyn. He then headed indoors for a news conference, where he was accompanied by elected officials, government reform advocates, and representatives of the city Campaign Finance Board. The mayor called on the state Legislature to pass broad voting and election reforms, including same-day voter registration, early voting, “no excuse” absentee voting, electronic poll books, consolidation of primary elections, reformatting ballots to make them more user-friendly, and pre-registration of 16- and 17-year-olds.</p> <p>Many of these reforms have been stalled in Albany, and de Blasio declared he was going to be part of a major push to see them passed in 2017, when the Legislature is back in session.&nbsp;“The bottom line is...the laws of New York State discourage participation in the democratic process,” de Blasio said. “Because everyone’s eyes are on election matters right now, we wanted to take this moment to make very, very clear that New York City and all of us here are going to be very, very actively engaged in a campaign to change state law in the coming months to finally make this a state that’s voter friendly, to finally make this a state where people can participate and not be disenfranchised.”</p> <p>De Blasio had been mostly quiet on these issues over the nearly three years of his term and held the news conference with no chance that Albany lawmakers could enact reforms for the 2016 elections even if they wanted to. But he credits his renewed interest to a reinvigorated national conversation about voter enfranchisement and issues in New York, both highlighted by the Sanders campaign.</p> <p>The mayor also asked the federal government to clear a backlog of pending naturalization applications, which would add about 57,000 new eligible voters to the rolls in New York alone, and more than 500,000 across the country.</p> <p>The city expanded its efforts to register voters this year, providing voter registration forms in 16 languages when the state only requires five and allowing registration for people that take civil service exams through the Department of Citywide Administrative Services. The administration also organized a voter registration drive in partnership with 12 street food vendors across the five boroughs, promoted on Twitter with the hashtag <a href="https://twitter.com/search?q=#NoshTheVote&amp;src=typd" target="_blank">#NoshTheVote</a>.</p> <p>A day after the news conference, the mayor <a href="http://www.wnyc.org/story/ask-mayor-10-13" target="_blank">appeared on WNYC’s The Brian Lehrer Show</a> for his weekly “Ask The Mayor” segment. He reiterated his appeal for voting reform, calling the state’s system “arcane” and blaming the “political class” for keeping participation low. “[New York] has got a set of voting standards that are some of the least effective, least inviting in the country,” de Blasio said. “It makes it hard for people to register, hard for people to vote."</p> <p>The mayor has time and again commended Senator Sanders’ campaign for bringing significant attention to voting reform around the April 19 primary election in New York. There were confused voters who were ineligible but tried to show up and vote for Sanders in a closed party primary, but also mismanagement by the city Board of Elections, with tens of thousands of Brooklyn voters inappropriately purged from the voter rolls ahead of the primary.</p> <p>At a November 4 news conference, Gotham Gazette asked the mayor why he hadn’t been vocal about voting and election reform earlier, in order to pressure Albany well ahead of the election, and what Governor Cuomo’s role should be in pushing for reforms.</p> <p>“I think [Governor Cuomo] needs to prioritize these reforms or the people will do it for him,” de Blasio said. He also explained that the Sanders campaign was a key impetus for change, adding, “I think a lot of us were disgusted by the New York State voting laws years ago and thought they were unmovable, particularly with a Republican Senate that was not going to be friendly to voting reform. What’s happened different, I think the Bernie Sanders campaign changed the entire national discussion, certainly what we saw happen in the primary did, but, again, not with such speed that it was going to make it something that could be achieved by the end of this last June.” De Blasio was referring to the June end of the state legislative session.</p> <p>With the Republicans likely to maintain control of the Senate going into next year, little has changed in Albany and those voting reforms may yet be unmovable. But the mayor has insisted he will work with state legislators and with the governor to push for reform. “I would happily, there’s no question,” de Blasio said at the news conference, when asked if he would work with Cuomo, a fellow Democrat but often the mayor’s political nemesis. “I want to get it done and I’ll work with anyone on either side of the aisle who wants to get it done,” de Blasio said. “So, I could happily work with the governor.”</p> <p>Although de Blasio has taken inspiration from Sanders, he doesn’t agree with the senator’s criticism of the closed primary system or calls for open primaries in New York. “I believe that parties mean something,” de Blasio said at the Oct. 13 news conference, “and if you’re going to determine the choice of a party, you should be a member of the party.” He said the closed primary system prevents interference from voters that strategically “jump into the opposite primary just for the day and then jump back out.”</p> <p>De Blasio has also been vocal in his support for administrative reform and even <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/389-16/mayor-de-blasio-make-20-million-available-city-board-elections-vital-reforms" target="_blank">offered</a> the New York City Board of Elections $20 million in funding if it agreed to institute crucial changes. But the board, which is governed by state law and notoriously inept, did not accept the funding.</p> <p>Dick Dadey, executive director of Citizens Union, a government reform group, was one of those present at the October 13 news conference. Dadey acknowledges that de Blasio may be late to the effort, but does not fault him for it. “I know personally that he believes strongly in this needed issue of reform but clearly decided to wait until a later time in his term to deal with this,” he said. “That it’s coming on the eve of his own reelection battle is not lost on anyone as to the likely coincidence and the rationale.”</p> <p>Indeed, de Blasio’s campaign Twitter account pledged a fight for election reform: “We're going to reform NYS' voting access laws, because lack of early voting &amp; same day registration is disenfranchisement, plain and simple,” read <a href="https://twitter.com/BilldeBlasio/status/798538162322685952" target="_blank">a tweet</a> from the account sent out Tuesday morning.</p> <p>The mayor had other priorities in his first three years, such as implementing universal pre-kindergarten, expanding access to paid sick leave, creating affordable housing, and moving the NYPD into a new era of neighborhood policing while keeping crime down. Voting and election reform, largely state issues, have not been on the mayor’s radar, though his state legislative affairs office has sent memos to lawmakers in support of legislation, which has foundered in the Republican-controlled Senate.</p> <p>De Blasio has made annual trips to Albany to testify at budget hearings, at which he outlines key city priorities. Voting and election reform have not been mentioned.</p> <p>“Do I wish that Mayor de Blasio had weighed in earlier on some important reform issues like he did when he was Public Advocate and his first news conference was on public oversight and police misconduct? Definitely, yes,” Dadey said. “But I also know that there are a lot of issues and priorities that needed to be addressed and [voting reform] was simply not one of them, unfortunately.”</p> <p>Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg <a href="http://www.politico.com/story/2010/12/bloomberg-pitches-voting-reforms-046066" target="_blank">pushed for</a> his favored voting reforms at different points, and he supports the open primary system that de Blasio does not. (Bloomberg is a Democrat-turned-Republican-turned-independent.)</p> <p>Governor Cuomo has been in support of the measures de Blasio is now pushing, as has the Democrat-controlled State Assembly, which has time and again passed such bills, which fail in the Senate. Cuomo has not been a forceful public voice on the issues either, even if he does back early voting and other reforms. He’s included them in his State of the State speeches or policy books, but has done little else to publicly promote the reforms.</p> <p>Despite their agreement on the need for voting and election reforms, there is no indication, other than a few vague comments, that the two will coordinate their efforts to push the issue in Albany.</p> <p>In his 2015 State of the State address, the governor included a number of voting reforms in his list of legislative priorities, which were echoed in what de Blasio recently outlined. “Governor Cuomo has fought tirelessly to ensure New York's elections are fair, inclusive, and open,” said spokesperson Abbey Fashouer, in an email. “The Governor will continue to work with all state and local partners to strengthen the democratic process and ensure every New Yorker has the opportunity to make their vote count and their voices heard.”</p> <p>The governor can often bring Republicans to the table on issues that he favors, like the minimum wage, marriage equality, and more. He has not made voting reforms a top priority.</p> <p>Freddi Goldstein, a spokesperson for the mayor, defended the timing of de Blasio’s renewed efforts in a phone interview with Gotham Gazette. It was important, she said, to piggyback off the election to grab people’s attention. “We need to talk to people when they're listening, and this has been a great opportunity,” she said. Goldstein also sought to dispel the idea that the mayor hasn’t consistently focused on the issue.</p> <p>The mayor does not submit a legislative agenda to the State but does testify before legislators each year. Although his testimony this year did not include any reference to voting reform, Goldstein said the mayor’s team in Albany works behind the scenes on such legislative issues. “Just because we're not talking about these things publicly doesn't mean we're not working on it,” she said. City Hall issues legislative memos to Albany on bills and has done so on voting and election reform, according to copies of such memos reviewed by Gotham Gazette.</p> <p>City Council Member Ben Kallos, who chairs the committee on governmental operations, said in a phone interview that “All of these [reforms] should’ve happened before Election Day and if there’s an Albany special session it should be part of that agenda. The voters shouldn’t let their elected officials go back to Albany without getting this done.”</p> <p>The City Council has consistently advocated for voting and election reform in its annual <a href="http://council.nyc.gov/downloads/pdf/state-agenda-updated-final-2015-4pm.pdf" target="_blank">state legislative agenda</a>, including early voting, instant runoff voting for citywide primaries, and public campaign financing at the state level. De Blasio has said he has concerns about instant runoff voting but hasn’t taken a full position. The mayor has consistently called for campaign finance reform, calling the city’s public matching system a gold standard that the state should follow. Cuomo has professed support for such a system but has not gotten one passed and enacted.</p> <p>Kallos says he recognizes that the mayor hasn’t been able to prioritize election reform over other items on his agenda. “I think that we needed attention to this in 2014,” he said. “The mayor and I were able to advocate together for universal pre-kindergarten but election reforms weren’t on that list…I think that when we have so few people engaged in voting and such low turnout, people need to put good government on the same plane as things like universal pre-kindergarten.”</p> <p>He emphasized that elected officials should look beyond their own self-interest and vote for election and voting reform, and that voters need to speak up. “Anyone who waited in line, anyone who had trouble voting, needs to make their voices heard to their elected officials,” Kallos said, “and Albany needs to finally make these changes even if it isn’t in the interest of incumbents…Ultimately in 2017, we will have a vote on the Constitutional Convention, and if Albany won’t act then the electors might.”</p> <p>Indeed, one of the reasons that those who are supportive of a “yes” vote for a state Constitutional Convention believe it could be an opportunity to institute long-sought government, voting, election, and campaign finance reforms.</p> <p>Prior to November 8, voting reform was one issue that de Blasio <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/state/6605-cuomo-and-de-blasio-outline-priorities-for-a-democratic-senate-with-a-lot-in-common" target="_blank">mentioned as a priority</a> if the Democrats were able to take control of the state Senate from the Republicans. While there are two Long Island races still being counted that could change things, it appears that Republicans will continue their hold on the state Senate, putting a dent in de Blasio’s hopes for voting reform and other priorities, like a lengthy extension of mayoral control of city schools.</p> <p>Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh, a Manhattan Democrat, has been a staunch proponent of election reform, sponsoring many of the relevant bills that have passed his chamber, and he lays the failure of reform proposals at the feet of Senate Republicans. Kavanagh said he strongly supports the mayor’s and governor’s efforts on the issue, and denied that de Blasio has been passive. “I think [Mayor de Blasio’s] push to focus on changing these laws is important,” said Kavanagh, who participated in de Blasio’s October press conference. “He’s not operating in a vacuum but he’s also not late to the party. He’s been pushing both as mayor and even before he was mayor.”</p> <p>“I think the appropriate thing is to fault the Republican Senate majority,” Kavanagh said, insisting that the governor and the Independent Democratic Conference in the Senate have also backed the Assembly’s direction on election reform under Speaker Carl Heastie, a Bronx Democrat. “This is not Democratic election reform,” he said. “This is common sense voting reform that will benefit everybody...Republicans and Democrats should be able to agree on these.” Multiple requests for comment sent to Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan’s office were not returned.</p> <p>Dadey, from Citizens Union, had a few words of advice for de Blasio. “If the mayor is rejoining the fight for voting and election reform,” he said, “then he should really reach out proactively with the non-profit organizations that work with this to develop a collective agenda and strategy plan, but also engage the elected officials who represent the City of New York who are involved in these issues as well. It’s not as if he’s the first elected official to be talking about these issues.”</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, 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>