Voters at the polls (photo: Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office)
In New York, we are just weeks away from going to the polls to vote in the general election. You may know that we will vote for various important positions in our local government, such as the mayor of New York City and county executives outside of the Big Apple. You may not know that, across the state, we will also be voting on critical ballot questions. To strengthen democracy in our state, it’s important that you vote “yes” on three key questions to reform the redistricting process and expand our voting rights.
Over the years, our communities have tirelessly worked to increase voter turnout and ensure the voices of immigrant, Black, brown, and working-class New Yorkers be heard at the polls. In the upcoming elections, we can take further steps to help all eligible voters cast their ballots by approving ballot questions to adopt same-day voter registration, no-excuse absentee voting, and redistricting reform. At least 50 community-based organizations across the state have supported these measures. And we have launched "Yes on 1, 3, and 4" to educate voters. Here’s why.
The first proposal on the ballot (Question 1) will help improve the redistricting process in our state. In 2020, community-based organizations like ours led massive organizing efforts to have all our communities counted in the Census. Legislators have twice passed a series of important reforms to improve the redistricting process. The proposal before the voters would ensure that all New Yorkers, regardless of immigration status, be included in the Census, regardless of any potential future shenanigans from Washington.
It would also guarantee that incarcerated persons remain counted at the place of their last residence for redistricting and cap the number of state senators at 63 (Senate Republicans increased the number last time around to hold on to a majority). Finally, it will make the redistricting process work by moving up the timeline for redistricting, repealing inoperative language, and eliminating differential vote thresholds for adopting redistricting plans based on which party controls the State Legislature. This will improve the redistricting process and allow for equal and fairer representation across the state.
November’s ballot will also include key voting rights questions on same-day voter registration and no-excuse absentee voting. Many times, eligible voters miss the deadline for registration or are not aware of any issues with their registration until they arrive at the polls. Same-day voter registration (Question 3) will eliminate voter registration deadlines and allow these voters to make sure they’re registered and cast their ballot on Election Day.
Voters should also support ‘no-excuse’ absentee voting (Question 4). In the midst of the global pandemic, we witnessed throughout the country and in our state how absentee voting was crucial in allowing voters to cast their ballots. The wide availability of this form of voting should continue after the pandemic. No-excuse absentee voting will allow voters to vote in the future using an absentee ballot without requiring a justification. This is a critical step forward that will help expand access to meet the needs of voters who need an absentee ballot due to health concerns, personal emergencies or who simply cannot make it to the voting polls.
With the elections approaching, New Yorkers will vote for new leadership for their communities. We should also vote to expand voting rights and strengthen our democracy. Vote “yes” on Questions 1, 3, and 4 and help our state move forward toward fairer districts and expanded voting rights for all.
Theo Oshiro is the Co-Executive Director of Make the Road New York. Melody Lopez is the Executive Director of the New York Civic Engagement Table. On Twitter @TheoOshiro of @MaketheRoadNY, and @NYCivicEngage.