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. https://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/early-voting 2019-06-27T00:44:33+00:00 Webmaster webmaster@gothamgazette.com More Sites, Better Democracy: Board of Elections Must Get Early Voting Right 2019-05-27T04:00:00+00:00 2019-05-27T04:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8551-more-sites-better-democracy-board-of-elections-must-get-early-voting-right Ben Max <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/47736223721_eee19212fe_z.jpg" alt="de Blasio early voting new york city" width="600" height="401" /></p> <p>(photo: Michael Appleton/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Early voting has finally come to our state, but it won’t work in our city unless the City Board of Elections ensures there are enough voting sites. That needs to happen, and it needs to happen now for our 3 million immigrants, our communities of color and every New Yorker who has a hard time voting on Election Day.<br /> <br />Later today, the BOE is due to announce how many early voting poll sites New York City will have for the November election – the first time New Yorkers will have the right to vote early.<br /> <br />The preliminary list the BOE released last month, which included just 38 sites, was not enough and seemed designed to undermine the idea of early voting itself. Let’s think about how preposterous just 38 voting sites would be in a city that stretches out over 300 square miles, and how far out of the way New Yorkers may need to travel to get to the nearest early voting site assigned to them. For example, if you live in upper Manhattan but want to vote early near your job downtown, or even if you want to vote close to home but the nearest of just 38 sites is too far, you won’t be able to under BOE's plan. This is restrictive and counter intuitive to the spirit and letter of the law, which is supposed to make voting as convenient as possible. New Yorkers deserve more time to participate in our democracy, not just on Election Day.<br /> <br />Early voting gives New Yorkers nine days before Election Day to cast their ballot – including two weekends. That isn’t a luxury. It’s a necessity for millions of citizens whose schedules are filled to the brim with work, school and/or family commitments. The fact that until now New York State has restricted voting to a single day has contributed to two awful realities: voter turnout has been at historic lows and Election Day is plagued with long lines for those who do show up to exercise their right. This is on top of arcane, confusing rules that are near impossible to comprehend, particularly for limited-English-proficient New Yorkers and immigrant citizens.<br /> <br />The last November General Election was a prime example of many of the challenges New Yorkers faced when they went out to the polls, making lines even longer than usual. At one point, ballot scanners that had been malfunctioning all day at M.S. 80 in the Bronx all broke down, bringing voting to a dead stop. This same problem at St. Cecilia's in Greenpoint led to hundreds of voters waiting up to four hours to cast their ballot. At other sites like Christ Church in Bay Ridge, the size of the new ballots caused a myriad of scanning problems that led to similar, massive delays.<br /> <br />The problem will only get worse as the BOE continues to ignore calls for reform and as New Yorkers get more energized for upcoming elections. <br /> <br />We have a chance to make things right. This year, the New York Legislature did its job and passed a package of election reforms, including early voting. But the BOE – which is funded by New York City and yet independent of City control – isn’t living up to its responsibility.<br /> <br />Under the current proposal, more than a third, or 21 out of a total of 51 City Council districts, wouldn’t have a single early voting site. In the borough of Queens alone, there are almost 1.2 million voters and more than 1 million immigrants. Yet, the BOE’s initial plan sited just seven early voting locations in the whole borough. With xenophobia and racism rearing their heads at the highest levels of government, the BOE has effectively excluded immigrant neighborhoods and communities of color from proximity to early voting sites, suppressing the voices of minorities in our elections. The BOE can and must do better.<br /> <br />Today we’re waiting to see whether the BOE takes up the City’s offer and expands its original 38 sites to 100. With the 2020 elections fast approaching, it’s vitally important that we maximize opportunities for our city’s five million registered voters. Their voices guide the City in all that it does.<br /> <br />This is a moment that should anger anyone who believes in democracy, anyone who believes in the empowerment of our City’s immigrants, and the rights of all eligible voters to make their voices heard.<br /> <br />New York City has provided $75 million for a robust early voting program, and now the BOE needs to step up to the plate and do its job by making early voting available to every registered voter, in every borough. Otherwise, the promise of early voting and of this democracy will be betrayed.</p> <p>***<br />Bill de Blasio is Mayor of New York City. Steve Choi is Executive Director of the New York Immigration Coalition. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/NYCMayor" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@NYCMayor</a> &amp; <a href="https://twitter.com/SteveChoiNY" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@SteveChoiNY</a>.</p> <p>

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<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/47736223721_eee19212fe_z.jpg" alt="de Blasio early voting new york city" width="600" height="401" /></p> <p>(photo: Michael Appleton/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Early voting has finally come to our state, but it won’t work in our city unless the City Board of Elections ensures there are enough voting sites. That needs to happen, and it needs to happen now for our 3 million immigrants, our communities of color and every New Yorker who has a hard time voting on Election Day.<br /> <br />Later today, the BOE is due to announce how many early voting poll sites New York City will have for the November election – the first time New Yorkers will have the right to vote early.<br /> <br />The preliminary list the BOE released last month, which included just 38 sites, was not enough and seemed designed to undermine the idea of early voting itself. Let’s think about how preposterous just 38 voting sites would be in a city that stretches out over 300 square miles, and how far out of the way New Yorkers may need to travel to get to the nearest early voting site assigned to them. For example, if you live in upper Manhattan but want to vote early near your job downtown, or even if you want to vote close to home but the nearest of just 38 sites is too far, you won’t be able to under BOE's plan. This is restrictive and counter intuitive to the spirit and letter of the law, which is supposed to make voting as convenient as possible. New Yorkers deserve more time to participate in our democracy, not just on Election Day.<br /> <br />Early voting gives New Yorkers nine days before Election Day to cast their ballot – including two weekends. That isn’t a luxury. It’s a necessity for millions of citizens whose schedules are filled to the brim with work, school and/or family commitments. The fact that until now New York State has restricted voting to a single day has contributed to two awful realities: voter turnout has been at historic lows and Election Day is plagued with long lines for those who do show up to exercise their right. This is on top of arcane, confusing rules that are near impossible to comprehend, particularly for limited-English-proficient New Yorkers and immigrant citizens.<br /> <br />The last November General Election was a prime example of many of the challenges New Yorkers faced when they went out to the polls, making lines even longer than usual. At one point, ballot scanners that had been malfunctioning all day at M.S. 80 in the Bronx all broke down, bringing voting to a dead stop. This same problem at St. Cecilia's in Greenpoint led to hundreds of voters waiting up to four hours to cast their ballot. At other sites like Christ Church in Bay Ridge, the size of the new ballots caused a myriad of scanning problems that led to similar, massive delays.<br /> <br />The problem will only get worse as the BOE continues to ignore calls for reform and as New Yorkers get more energized for upcoming elections. <br /> <br />We have a chance to make things right. This year, the New York Legislature did its job and passed a package of election reforms, including early voting. But the BOE – which is funded by New York City and yet independent of City control – isn’t living up to its responsibility.<br /> <br />Under the current proposal, more than a third, or 21 out of a total of 51 City Council districts, wouldn’t have a single early voting site. In the borough of Queens alone, there are almost 1.2 million voters and more than 1 million immigrants. Yet, the BOE’s initial plan sited just seven early voting locations in the whole borough. With xenophobia and racism rearing their heads at the highest levels of government, the BOE has effectively excluded immigrant neighborhoods and communities of color from proximity to early voting sites, suppressing the voices of minorities in our elections. The BOE can and must do better.<br /> <br />Today we’re waiting to see whether the BOE takes up the City’s offer and expands its original 38 sites to 100. With the 2020 elections fast approaching, it’s vitally important that we maximize opportunities for our city’s five million registered voters. Their voices guide the City in all that it does.<br /> <br />This is a moment that should anger anyone who believes in democracy, anyone who believes in the empowerment of our City’s immigrants, and the rights of all eligible voters to make their voices heard.<br /> <br />New York City has provided $75 million for a robust early voting program, and now the BOE needs to step up to the plate and do its job by making early voting available to every registered voter, in every borough. Otherwise, the promise of early voting and of this democracy will be betrayed.</p> <p>***<br />Bill de Blasio is Mayor of New York City. Steve Choi is Executive Director of the New York Immigration Coalition. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/NYCMayor" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@NYCMayor</a> &amp; <a href="https://twitter.com/SteveChoiNY" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@SteveChoiNY</a>.</p> <p>

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City Council Examines Board of Elections' Readiness to Implement Early Voting, Poll-Site Interpretation 2019-04-30T04:00:00+00:00 2019-04-30T04:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/8491-city-council-examines-board-of-elections-readiness-to-implement-early-voting Ben Max <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/voting-gen-elect.jpg" alt="voting gen elect" width="600" height="401" /></p> <p>(photo: Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office)</p> <hr /> <p>The New York City Board of Elections, a state entity funded by the city, has a less-than-stellar reputation for running elections and has long been resistant to going beyond the letter of state law in improving voter access and participation. And this year, the city BOE must contend with a new state mandate to create an early voting program for potentially millions of voters, as well as a push by the city to provide broader poll site interpretation services in immigrant communities.</p> <p>At a Tuesday hearing of the New York City Council’s Committee on Governmental Operations, officials from the BOE testified to the complexities of implementing the new early voting mandate by the November election.</p> <p>The state Legislature recently approved the program, which requires nine consecutive days of early voting before Election Day and, according to the provisions of the law, a minimum of 34 poll sites across the city. The state also passed legislation to allow the use of electronic poll books at poll sites. The state BOE approved regulations for early voting on Monday and the city BOE faces a deadline to declare its chosen sites on Wednesday, May 1.</p> <p>While Mayor Bill de Blasio on Monday called for the BOE to offer 100 early voting sites across the city, offering the board $75 million to do so, the BOE does not appear ready to meet the mayor’s request. Not long after BOE executives testified before the Council, the board's commissioners voted to approve 38 early voting polling sites for November, inviting criticism from the mayor and others.</p> <p>There will be 10 sites in Brooklyn and seven each in the Bronx, Queens, Manhattan, and Staten Island. The board also determined early voting hours, which will vary based on date leading up to the November 5 Election Day. Voters will receive their early voting poll site assignment from the BOE.&nbsp;</p> <p>The City Council committee hearing also delved into a <a href="https://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=3763667&amp;GUID=C6C1C4F8-BE3D-4755-B131-EFA3D7B28DB2&amp;Options=&amp;Search=">new bill</a> proposed by Brooklyn Council Member Mark Treyger that would require the Voter Assistance Advisory Committee, a nonpartisan entity housed under the New York City Campaign Finance Board, to provide interpretation services at poll sites in several languages beyond what is currently required by state and federal law.</p> <p>The bill would help facilitate the work of the city’s newly created Civic Engagement Commission, approved by voters in a ballot referendum last year, that is charged with, among other things, developing a poll site interpretation services program. Still, the city BOE has repeatedly argued that it is not under the jurisdiction of city laws, but of state laws, complicating matters.</p> <p><strong>Early Voting Poses Challenges</strong><br />New York has long been a laggard in voter turnout and election reform, and it became the 38th state to approve early voting this year. But the program is a monumental lift, particularly for the five boroughs of New York City, home to 8.5 million residents.</p> <p>The recently approved <a href="https://www.nysenate.gov/legislation/bills/2019/s1102">legislation</a> to create the program requires one early voting site for every 50,000 registered voters in a county and no more than seven sites, though local counties have the discretion to add more. The 2020 state budget includes $10 million in funding for early voting and $14.1 million for electronic poll books for the entire state, distributed according to a formula that the state BOE must create. &nbsp;</p> <p>On Monday, Mayor de Blasio offered the city BOE $75 million to establish 100 polling sites for early voting (he included an additional $21 million for the purchase of electronic poll books in his executive budget proposal last week).</p> <p>“We have to get early voting right, and we're saying very clearly to the Board of Elections, we'll put our money where our mouth is,” de Blasio said.</p> <p>At the Tuesday Council hearing, New York City’s new and first chief democracy officer, Ayirini Fonseca-Sabune, emphasized the importance of instituting a robust early voting program. “If a significant percentage of New York City voters vote during the early voting period, we may be able to reduce some of the strain that we see on our Election Day systems that has led to breakdowns at polling places,” she said. “Lines will be shorter, poll sites will be less crowded.”</p> <p>She noted that early voting also correlates with higher participation, and stressed that seven sites in each county are “not sufficient to accommodate the needs of voters in New York City.” She pointed out, for instance, that Brooklyn would essentially have the same number of sites as upstate counties one-fifth the registered voters.</p> <p>BOE Executive Director Michael Ryan, a few hours before the board's commissioners make their early voting decisions, repeatedly emphasized that early voting is a complicated endeavor and that the city must take a cautious approach in order to establish a strong foundation for the program that will allow it to grow and improve over time.</p> <p>When the program was approved, the city did not have the infrastructure in place to implement it, he said, and is in the process of creating it, including providing a system of ballots on demand to voters. Among the issues is that the board must approve a new vendor to provide electronic poll books, which will happen in June, and then has to train poll workers in the new systems.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>Ryan stressed that the board is willing to work with the de Blasio administration and the City Council to ensure they create an efficient program, but he insisted that in soliciting input from other jurisdictions that have long had early voting programs, the BOE has been warned of the many variables and challenges they face. “The worst thing that we could do is get overly ambitious and not have it work and undermine...voter confidence,” he said, emphasizing the need to phase in a program over time.</p> <p>“There will be obstacles. Nothing will be perfect...There’s gonna be many lessons learned,” said Dawn Sandow, the BOE’s deputy executive director. As usual, none of the board’s commissioners, political appointees from the local Democratic and Republican parties who are confirmed through the Council, testified before the Council. Those commissioners make many essential decisions to BOE operations, which are carried out by Ryan, Sandow, and their employees.</p> <p>Voting reform advocates celebrated the passage of early voting and praised the mayor for offering a massive boost in funding. But even they cautioned at the hearing that the BOE must be careful in implementing a new system that could cause confusion among both voters who must use it and the poll workers who must administer it. Some also raised concerns about cyber security and urged the BOE to ensure adequate firewalls and redundancies to protect election systems and the integrity of individual votes.</p> <p><strong>Interpreting State Law and City Mandates</strong><br />As a creature of state law, the BOE has consistently opposed the mayoral administration and City Council’s efforts to impose new mandates on its operations. Since 2017, it has refused to abide by a local law requiring the postage of signs when a poll site is moved. More recently, the city again ran up against the BOE when it attempted to provide language interpretation services in poll site buildings.</p> <p>By state and federal law, the BOE is only required to provide interpretation services in five languages -- Spanish, Mandarin, Cantonese, Korean, and Bangla -- which city officials and advocates say is insufficient for New York City’s population, which speaks hundreds of languages.</p> <p>The Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs had additionally sought to provide services in Russian, Haitian Creole, Yiddish, and Polish within poll site buildings during the February 26 special election for public advocate. But the <a href="http://gothamist.com/2019/02/22/board_of_elections_suing_new_york_c.php">BOE sued the city</a>, arguing that since the interpreters were not hired and trained by the board, they would be engaging in a form of electioneering and therefore must remain at a distance of at least 100 feet from a polling site.</p> <p>A state judge <a href="https://patch.com/new-york/new-york-city/judge-questions-effort-block-translators-nyc-polls">rejected</a> the BOE’s argument and did not issue an injunction against the city, allowing interpreters into poll sites. But the BOE has appealed and that ongoing litigation could determine whether the city can continue to provide those services for future elections.</p> <p>Both Tregyer’s bill and the new Civic Engagement Commission would create a much more expansive interpretation services program. “Language access is not electioneering,” Treyger said, accusing the BOE of essentially taking actions that are “nothing short of voter suppression.”</p> <p>But the BOE’s Ryan said the city should rather await the legislative process playing out at the state level. At the hearing, he pointed to bills introduced in February in the <a href="https://www.nysenate.gov/legislation/bills/2019/s4036/amendment/original">state Senate</a> and <a href="https://www.nysenate.gov/legislation/bills/2019/a6075">Assembly</a> that would preempt the city’s efforts if they pass.</p> <p>“There really is no daylight, Councilman Treyger, between your position and the board’s position,” Ryan said. He noted that if the BOE were to provide interpretation services for any &nbsp;particular linguistic group without being legally required to do so, it could give other groups the potential to sue under the Equal Protection clause of the Constitution. “What we’re simply asking for is a structure, a legal structure, some authority to tell us legally ‘This is what you need to do,’” he said.</p> <p>The de Blasio administration seemed to hedge its bets on Treyger’s proposal. MOIA Commissioner Bitta Mostofi said the administration supports the intent of the bill but did not express direct support for it. She said the CEC, rather than the VAAC, should be tasked with implementing it and that the bill was just one of the elements of implementing a program. “There should other factors that are taken into consideration when establishing where the services should be and what those services should be,” she said.</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/voting-gen-elect.jpg" alt="voting gen elect" width="600" height="401" /></p> <p>(photo: Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office)</p> <hr /> <p>The New York City Board of Elections, a state entity funded by the city, has a less-than-stellar reputation for running elections and has long been resistant to going beyond the letter of state law in improving voter access and participation. And this year, the city BOE must contend with a new state mandate to create an early voting program for potentially millions of voters, as well as a push by the city to provide broader poll site interpretation services in immigrant communities.</p> <p>At a Tuesday hearing of the New York City Council’s Committee on Governmental Operations, officials from the BOE testified to the complexities of implementing the new early voting mandate by the November election.</p> <p>The state Legislature recently approved the program, which requires nine consecutive days of early voting before Election Day and, according to the provisions of the law, a minimum of 34 poll sites across the city. The state also passed legislation to allow the use of electronic poll books at poll sites. The state BOE approved regulations for early voting on Monday and the city BOE faces a deadline to declare its chosen sites on Wednesday, May 1.</p> <p>While Mayor Bill de Blasio on Monday called for the BOE to offer 100 early voting sites across the city, offering the board $75 million to do so, the BOE does not appear ready to meet the mayor’s request. Not long after BOE executives testified before the Council, the board's commissioners voted to approve 38 early voting polling sites for November, inviting criticism from the mayor and others.</p> <p>There will be 10 sites in Brooklyn and seven each in the Bronx, Queens, Manhattan, and Staten Island. The board also determined early voting hours, which will vary based on date leading up to the November 5 Election Day. Voters will receive their early voting poll site assignment from the BOE.&nbsp;</p> <p>The City Council committee hearing also delved into a <a href="https://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=3763667&amp;GUID=C6C1C4F8-BE3D-4755-B131-EFA3D7B28DB2&amp;Options=&amp;Search=">new bill</a> proposed by Brooklyn Council Member Mark Treyger that would require the Voter Assistance Advisory Committee, a nonpartisan entity housed under the New York City Campaign Finance Board, to provide interpretation services at poll sites in several languages beyond what is currently required by state and federal law.</p> <p>The bill would help facilitate the work of the city’s newly created Civic Engagement Commission, approved by voters in a ballot referendum last year, that is charged with, among other things, developing a poll site interpretation services program. Still, the city BOE has repeatedly argued that it is not under the jurisdiction of city laws, but of state laws, complicating matters.</p> <p><strong>Early Voting Poses Challenges</strong><br />New York has long been a laggard in voter turnout and election reform, and it became the 38th state to approve early voting this year. But the program is a monumental lift, particularly for the five boroughs of New York City, home to 8.5 million residents.</p> <p>The recently approved <a href="https://www.nysenate.gov/legislation/bills/2019/s1102">legislation</a> to create the program requires one early voting site for every 50,000 registered voters in a county and no more than seven sites, though local counties have the discretion to add more. The 2020 state budget includes $10 million in funding for early voting and $14.1 million for electronic poll books for the entire state, distributed according to a formula that the state BOE must create. &nbsp;</p> <p>On Monday, Mayor de Blasio offered the city BOE $75 million to establish 100 polling sites for early voting (he included an additional $21 million for the purchase of electronic poll books in his executive budget proposal last week).</p> <p>“We have to get early voting right, and we're saying very clearly to the Board of Elections, we'll put our money where our mouth is,” de Blasio said.</p> <p>At the Tuesday Council hearing, New York City’s new and first chief democracy officer, Ayirini Fonseca-Sabune, emphasized the importance of instituting a robust early voting program. “If a significant percentage of New York City voters vote during the early voting period, we may be able to reduce some of the strain that we see on our Election Day systems that has led to breakdowns at polling places,” she said. “Lines will be shorter, poll sites will be less crowded.”</p> <p>She noted that early voting also correlates with higher participation, and stressed that seven sites in each county are “not sufficient to accommodate the needs of voters in New York City.” She pointed out, for instance, that Brooklyn would essentially have the same number of sites as upstate counties one-fifth the registered voters.</p> <p>BOE Executive Director Michael Ryan, a few hours before the board's commissioners make their early voting decisions, repeatedly emphasized that early voting is a complicated endeavor and that the city must take a cautious approach in order to establish a strong foundation for the program that will allow it to grow and improve over time.</p> <p>When the program was approved, the city did not have the infrastructure in place to implement it, he said, and is in the process of creating it, including providing a system of ballots on demand to voters. Among the issues is that the board must approve a new vendor to provide electronic poll books, which will happen in June, and then has to train poll workers in the new systems.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>Ryan stressed that the board is willing to work with the de Blasio administration and the City Council to ensure they create an efficient program, but he insisted that in soliciting input from other jurisdictions that have long had early voting programs, the BOE has been warned of the many variables and challenges they face. “The worst thing that we could do is get overly ambitious and not have it work and undermine...voter confidence,” he said, emphasizing the need to phase in a program over time.</p> <p>“There will be obstacles. Nothing will be perfect...There’s gonna be many lessons learned,” said Dawn Sandow, the BOE’s deputy executive director. As usual, none of the board’s commissioners, political appointees from the local Democratic and Republican parties who are confirmed through the Council, testified before the Council. Those commissioners make many essential decisions to BOE operations, which are carried out by Ryan, Sandow, and their employees.</p> <p>Voting reform advocates celebrated the passage of early voting and praised the mayor for offering a massive boost in funding. But even they cautioned at the hearing that the BOE must be careful in implementing a new system that could cause confusion among both voters who must use it and the poll workers who must administer it. Some also raised concerns about cyber security and urged the BOE to ensure adequate firewalls and redundancies to protect election systems and the integrity of individual votes.</p> <p><strong>Interpreting State Law and City Mandates</strong><br />As a creature of state law, the BOE has consistently opposed the mayoral administration and City Council’s efforts to impose new mandates on its operations. Since 2017, it has refused to abide by a local law requiring the postage of signs when a poll site is moved. More recently, the city again ran up against the BOE when it attempted to provide language interpretation services in poll site buildings.</p> <p>By state and federal law, the BOE is only required to provide interpretation services in five languages -- Spanish, Mandarin, Cantonese, Korean, and Bangla -- which city officials and advocates say is insufficient for New York City’s population, which speaks hundreds of languages.</p> <p>The Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs had additionally sought to provide services in Russian, Haitian Creole, Yiddish, and Polish within poll site buildings during the February 26 special election for public advocate. But the <a href="http://gothamist.com/2019/02/22/board_of_elections_suing_new_york_c.php">BOE sued the city</a>, arguing that since the interpreters were not hired and trained by the board, they would be engaging in a form of electioneering and therefore must remain at a distance of at least 100 feet from a polling site.</p> <p>A state judge <a href="https://patch.com/new-york/new-york-city/judge-questions-effort-block-translators-nyc-polls">rejected</a> the BOE’s argument and did not issue an injunction against the city, allowing interpreters into poll sites. But the BOE has appealed and that ongoing litigation could determine whether the city can continue to provide those services for future elections.</p> <p>Both Tregyer’s bill and the new Civic Engagement Commission would create a much more expansive interpretation services program. “Language access is not electioneering,” Treyger said, accusing the BOE of essentially taking actions that are “nothing short of voter suppression.”</p> <p>But the BOE’s Ryan said the city should rather await the legislative process playing out at the state level. At the hearing, he pointed to bills introduced in February in the <a href="https://www.nysenate.gov/legislation/bills/2019/s4036/amendment/original">state Senate</a> and <a href="https://www.nysenate.gov/legislation/bills/2019/a6075">Assembly</a> that would preempt the city’s efforts if they pass.</p> <p>“There really is no daylight, Councilman Treyger, between your position and the board’s position,” Ryan said. He noted that if the BOE were to provide interpretation services for any &nbsp;particular linguistic group without being legally required to do so, it could give other groups the potential to sue under the Equal Protection clause of the Constitution. “What we’re simply asking for is a structure, a legal structure, some authority to tell us legally ‘This is what you need to do,’” he said.</p> <p>The de Blasio administration seemed to hedge its bets on Treyger’s proposal. MOIA Commissioner Bitta Mostofi said the administration supports the intent of the bill but did not express direct support for it. She said the CEC, rather than the VAAC, should be tasked with implementing it and that the bill was just one of the elements of implementing a program. “There should other factors that are taken into consideration when establishing where the services should be and what those services should be,” she said.</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
In State Budget, More on Voting, Little on Ethics, and Half-Baked Campaign Finance Reform 2019-04-01T04:00:00+00:00 2019-04-01T04:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8414-state-budget-a-mixed-bag-on-election-ethics-and-campaign-finance-reforms Ben Max <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/44896439264_3011dd8ce0_z.jpg" alt="Cuomo presentation budget" width="600" height="334" /></p> <p>Gov. Cuomo (photo: Kevin P. Coughlin/governor's office)</p> <hr /> <p>The 2020 state budget agreement between Governor Andrew Cuomo and the state Legislature is one of the most consequential legislative packages to have passed in several years and enacts sweeping changes to the state’s criminal justice system, mass transit in New York City, voting laws, health care, environmental protections, and more. But government reform advocates are disappointed by what they see as half-measures on campaign finance reform and the exclusion of broader improvements to state procurement processes and government ethics reforms.</p> <p>Over the last three months, the state Legislature, under Democratic control for the first time in nearly a decade, quickly acted to pass several voting and campaign finance reforms that Democratic elected officials and candidates, including Cuomo, have backed and campaigned on for years.</p> <p>The Legislature approved early voting, consolidated the state and federal primary into one day in June, enacted pre-registration of 16- and 17-year-olds, and reduced contribution limits for limited liability companies to $5,000, greatly narrowing the infamous “LLC loophole.” Cuomo signed those bills into law. The Legislature also passed resolutions to amend the state constitution to allow no-excuse absentee ballots by mail and same-day voter registration -- the resolutions will have to be passed again by the next Legislature seated in 2021 and will then have to be approved by voters in a referendum.</p> <p>The budget deal passed early Monday morning included additional measures and funding for voting, election, and campaign finance reforms approved in previous months. The headline, though, was the compromise to mandate a binding commission that is meant to create a public financing program for state elections and must issue a report by December 1. The commission’s recommendations will become law unless the Legislature overrides it during a special session before the end of the year.</p> <p>[Read: <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8412-cuomo-legislators-agree-to-175-5-billion-budget-with-congestion-pricing-criminal-justice-reform-and-commitment-to-public-campaign-financing" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Cuomo, Legislators Agree to $175.5 Billion Budget with Congestion Pricing, Criminal Justice Reform and Commitment to Public Campaign Financing</a>]</p> <p>“On public integrity and anti-corruption issues, the governor and the Legislature have fallen short because they failed to put reforms in statute,” said Alex Camarda, senior policy advisor at Reinvent Albany, a government reform group. “On voting, they’re making very good progress in modernizing the state’s voting system...the Legislature and the governor have exceeded expectations I’d say. That’s really the lone bright spot on good government in the budget.”</p> <p><strong>Campaign Finance</strong> <br />The governor and Legislature couldn’t come to an agreement on implementing a public financing system with lower contribution limits for candidates and a small-donation matching program, owing largely to opposition in the state Assembly where Speaker Carl Heastie publicly raised doubts about having enough votes to approve the proposal, despite prior support for such a program when Republicans controlled the Senate.</p> <p>In the end, the budget agreement sets the state on the road to creating a system through a commission, which will have binding authority and $100 million in appropriations (the Legislature can still amend the commission’s recommendations within 20 days of the report being released). “It is too complicated,” Cuomo said at a news conference on Sunday of approving a public financing model. “It’s not a simple system to put in place, it’s especially not simple statewide.”</p> <p>Advocates say there isn’t enough clarity in the commission’s guidelines and have vowed to hold the feet of the governor and Legislature to the fire. The Fair Elections for NY coalition called the budget a “missed opportunity” to enact reform. The coalition of advocacy, community, and labor groups organized a massive push for a public financing program modelled on the one used in New York City, calling for a 6-to-1 match in public funds for every qualifying dollar that a candidate raises through the program (the city’s program was recently expanded to an 8-to-1 match).</p> <p>“The value of this commission will be determined by the quality of its appointees and the public process it offers to allow every day New Yorkers and experts to shape the outcome,” the coalition said in a statement. “We intend to hold our elected officials accountable to their promises and make sure New York actually delivers a historic victory without poison pills.”</p> <p>Michael Waldman, president of the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, said a public financing program should have been included in the budget, considering that Democrats have been pushing it for years. “Now that the task is put to a commission, the leaders must act swiftly to appoint qualified, independent members with a track record of public service, and a commitment to creating a robust small donor public financing program,” he said in a statement. “All must ensure a participatory process that is transparent to the public. Nothing less is required to secure the public’s trust.”</p> <p>Nine commission members will be appointed -- two each by the governor and majority and minority leaders of both legislative chambers. The final appointee must be chosen through consensus by all of the appointing parties and approved by the governor. Camarda from Reinvent Albany noted that the commission will have to approve a system through a majority vote, which is not guaranteed, nor is a 6-to-1 match or any independent enforcement of a new system. Camarda also pointed out that New York’s sky-high contribution limits for those who do not opt in to the program won’t be lowered, disincentivizing candidates from participating.</p> <p>When laying out his 2019 agenda late last year, Cuomo had called for completely banning corporate donations to political candidates, but that measure did not make it into the budget.</p> <p>Another Cuomo proposal that was not included in the budget was a complete closure of the so-called LLC loophole. LLCs allow individuals to circumvent contribution limits by shielding the identities of donors and, until recently, had the ability to donate as much as $65,000 to gubernatorial candidates. The Legislature brought those donation limits down to $5,000, in line with limits for corporations, but that does not completely preclude the loophole from being exploited.</p> <p>The governor had also proposed greater donor disclosure requirements for 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(4) nonprofit organizations, which he said were contributing to a plague of independent expenditures in state elections, but some charged was another attempt by the governor to target groups that have been critical of him. Those proposals were left out of the final budget as well.</p> <p><strong>Voting and Elections</strong><br />The final budget agreement includes $10 million in funding to localities to implement a 10-day early voting program, approves three hours (up from two) of paid time off on election day, authorizes electronic poll books with $14.7 million in funding, and expands voting hours at upstate polling sites to bring them in line with New York City and its surrounding suburbs (6 am to 9 pm).</p> <p>The budget also mandates that the Board of Elections create an online voter registration system that allows voters to submit applications with electronic signatures. Advocates and elected officials had also tried to push the Legislature to approve automatic voter registration for the state, but to no avail.</p> <p><strong>Ethics</strong><br />Though the governor had proposed several government ethics reforms in his executive budget proposal, barely any made it into the enacted budget. The proposals included mandated disclosure of tax returns by candidates for elected office, expanding the state’s Freedom of Information Law to the state Legislature (it currently covers the executive branch), banning state employees from volunteering on their employers’ election campaigns, and a “Lobbying Code of Conduct” to penalize violations of lobbying laws among other lobbying restrictions.</p> <p>But the only proposal that was approved was one that prohibits lobbyists, political action committees, labor unions, and a person registered as an independent expenditure committee from giving loans to candidates and political committees. What remains to be seen is whether the governor will follow through on a pledge to unilaterally ban those who do not voluntarily follow the code of conduct from lobbying the executive chamber. <br /> <br /><strong>‘Clean Contracting’ and Economic Development Accountability</strong><br />The budget leaves in place weaknesses in state contracting processes that advocates say led to recent pay-to-play scandals, and corruption convictions, in Albany, particularly among officials and donors in Cuomo’s inner circle.</p> <p>Though Cuomo had proposed several procurement reforms in his executive budget proposal, “Nothing got done in statute,” said Camarda. The governor reached a deal to restore the state comptroller’s pre-audit authority over certain state contracts -- powers stripped in Cuomo’s first year as governor -- but did not give it the backing of law in the budget and legislators do not appear to have fought for it to be in statute.</p> <p>Cuomo had also expressed support for stronger oversight powers for the state inspector general over SUNY- and CUNY-affiliated nonprofits, which were not passed with the budget. SUNY-affiliated contracts were at the center of a major bid-rigging scandal that led to the corruption conviction last year of Alain Kaloyeros, a former top economic development aide to Cuomo, and prominent donors to Cuomo’s campaign.</p> <p>The budget does appropriate $500,000 to administratively implement a “database of deals,” which is meant to outline projects receiving state economic development benefits. But the appropriation does not detail whether the database would be created in a way that would make it transparent or easily accessible. Advocates have pushed to make it downloadable and machine-readable for easy analysis. “None of the functionality that we would want to see in a database is specified,” Camarda said. “A bigger problem is there are no requirements as to what information should be included and there are no definitions.”</p> <p>Cuomo did include a specific provision in the budget that expands his authority over the Public Authorities Control Board, a direct response to the undoing of the deal to bring an Amazon campus to Queens. Cuomo has repeatedly blamed the failure of the deal on the state Senate’s nomination of Amazon-opponent Senator Mike Gianaris to the PACB, which would have final approval of a portion of the subsidies offered to the tech giant. The new budget allows Cuomo to remove a member of the PACB who oversteps, or threatens to overstep their authority.</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/44896439264_3011dd8ce0_z.jpg" alt="Cuomo presentation budget" width="600" height="334" /></p> <p>Gov. Cuomo (photo: Kevin P. Coughlin/governor's office)</p> <hr /> <p>The 2020 state budget agreement between Governor Andrew Cuomo and the state Legislature is one of the most consequential legislative packages to have passed in several years and enacts sweeping changes to the state’s criminal justice system, mass transit in New York City, voting laws, health care, environmental protections, and more. But government reform advocates are disappointed by what they see as half-measures on campaign finance reform and the exclusion of broader improvements to state procurement processes and government ethics reforms.</p> <p>Over the last three months, the state Legislature, under Democratic control for the first time in nearly a decade, quickly acted to pass several voting and campaign finance reforms that Democratic elected officials and candidates, including Cuomo, have backed and campaigned on for years.</p> <p>The Legislature approved early voting, consolidated the state and federal primary into one day in June, enacted pre-registration of 16- and 17-year-olds, and reduced contribution limits for limited liability companies to $5,000, greatly narrowing the infamous “LLC loophole.” Cuomo signed those bills into law. The Legislature also passed resolutions to amend the state constitution to allow no-excuse absentee ballots by mail and same-day voter registration -- the resolutions will have to be passed again by the next Legislature seated in 2021 and will then have to be approved by voters in a referendum.</p> <p>The budget deal passed early Monday morning included additional measures and funding for voting, election, and campaign finance reforms approved in previous months. The headline, though, was the compromise to mandate a binding commission that is meant to create a public financing program for state elections and must issue a report by December 1. The commission’s recommendations will become law unless the Legislature overrides it during a special session before the end of the year.</p> <p>[Read: <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8412-cuomo-legislators-agree-to-175-5-billion-budget-with-congestion-pricing-criminal-justice-reform-and-commitment-to-public-campaign-financing" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Cuomo, Legislators Agree to $175.5 Billion Budget with Congestion Pricing, Criminal Justice Reform and Commitment to Public Campaign Financing</a>]</p> <p>“On public integrity and anti-corruption issues, the governor and the Legislature have fallen short because they failed to put reforms in statute,” said Alex Camarda, senior policy advisor at Reinvent Albany, a government reform group. “On voting, they’re making very good progress in modernizing the state’s voting system...the Legislature and the governor have exceeded expectations I’d say. That’s really the lone bright spot on good government in the budget.”</p> <p><strong>Campaign Finance</strong> <br />The governor and Legislature couldn’t come to an agreement on implementing a public financing system with lower contribution limits for candidates and a small-donation matching program, owing largely to opposition in the state Assembly where Speaker Carl Heastie publicly raised doubts about having enough votes to approve the proposal, despite prior support for such a program when Republicans controlled the Senate.</p> <p>In the end, the budget agreement sets the state on the road to creating a system through a commission, which will have binding authority and $100 million in appropriations (the Legislature can still amend the commission’s recommendations within 20 days of the report being released). “It is too complicated,” Cuomo said at a news conference on Sunday of approving a public financing model. “It’s not a simple system to put in place, it’s especially not simple statewide.”</p> <p>Advocates say there isn’t enough clarity in the commission’s guidelines and have vowed to hold the feet of the governor and Legislature to the fire. The Fair Elections for NY coalition called the budget a “missed opportunity” to enact reform. The coalition of advocacy, community, and labor groups organized a massive push for a public financing program modelled on the one used in New York City, calling for a 6-to-1 match in public funds for every qualifying dollar that a candidate raises through the program (the city’s program was recently expanded to an 8-to-1 match).</p> <p>“The value of this commission will be determined by the quality of its appointees and the public process it offers to allow every day New Yorkers and experts to shape the outcome,” the coalition said in a statement. “We intend to hold our elected officials accountable to their promises and make sure New York actually delivers a historic victory without poison pills.”</p> <p>Michael Waldman, president of the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, said a public financing program should have been included in the budget, considering that Democrats have been pushing it for years. “Now that the task is put to a commission, the leaders must act swiftly to appoint qualified, independent members with a track record of public service, and a commitment to creating a robust small donor public financing program,” he said in a statement. “All must ensure a participatory process that is transparent to the public. Nothing less is required to secure the public’s trust.”</p> <p>Nine commission members will be appointed -- two each by the governor and majority and minority leaders of both legislative chambers. The final appointee must be chosen through consensus by all of the appointing parties and approved by the governor. Camarda from Reinvent Albany noted that the commission will have to approve a system through a majority vote, which is not guaranteed, nor is a 6-to-1 match or any independent enforcement of a new system. Camarda also pointed out that New York’s sky-high contribution limits for those who do not opt in to the program won’t be lowered, disincentivizing candidates from participating.</p> <p>When laying out his 2019 agenda late last year, Cuomo had called for completely banning corporate donations to political candidates, but that measure did not make it into the budget.</p> <p>Another Cuomo proposal that was not included in the budget was a complete closure of the so-called LLC loophole. LLCs allow individuals to circumvent contribution limits by shielding the identities of donors and, until recently, had the ability to donate as much as $65,000 to gubernatorial candidates. The Legislature brought those donation limits down to $5,000, in line with limits for corporations, but that does not completely preclude the loophole from being exploited.</p> <p>The governor had also proposed greater donor disclosure requirements for 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(4) nonprofit organizations, which he said were contributing to a plague of independent expenditures in state elections, but some charged was another attempt by the governor to target groups that have been critical of him. Those proposals were left out of the final budget as well.</p> <p><strong>Voting and Elections</strong><br />The final budget agreement includes $10 million in funding to localities to implement a 10-day early voting program, approves three hours (up from two) of paid time off on election day, authorizes electronic poll books with $14.7 million in funding, and expands voting hours at upstate polling sites to bring them in line with New York City and its surrounding suburbs (6 am to 9 pm).</p> <p>The budget also mandates that the Board of Elections create an online voter registration system that allows voters to submit applications with electronic signatures. Advocates and elected officials had also tried to push the Legislature to approve automatic voter registration for the state, but to no avail.</p> <p><strong>Ethics</strong><br />Though the governor had proposed several government ethics reforms in his executive budget proposal, barely any made it into the enacted budget. The proposals included mandated disclosure of tax returns by candidates for elected office, expanding the state’s Freedom of Information Law to the state Legislature (it currently covers the executive branch), banning state employees from volunteering on their employers’ election campaigns, and a “Lobbying Code of Conduct” to penalize violations of lobbying laws among other lobbying restrictions.</p> <p>But the only proposal that was approved was one that prohibits lobbyists, political action committees, labor unions, and a person registered as an independent expenditure committee from giving loans to candidates and political committees. What remains to be seen is whether the governor will follow through on a pledge to unilaterally ban those who do not voluntarily follow the code of conduct from lobbying the executive chamber. <br /> <br /><strong>‘Clean Contracting’ and Economic Development Accountability</strong><br />The budget leaves in place weaknesses in state contracting processes that advocates say led to recent pay-to-play scandals, and corruption convictions, in Albany, particularly among officials and donors in Cuomo’s inner circle.</p> <p>Though Cuomo had proposed several procurement reforms in his executive budget proposal, “Nothing got done in statute,” said Camarda. The governor reached a deal to restore the state comptroller’s pre-audit authority over certain state contracts -- powers stripped in Cuomo’s first year as governor -- but did not give it the backing of law in the budget and legislators do not appear to have fought for it to be in statute.</p> <p>Cuomo had also expressed support for stronger oversight powers for the state inspector general over SUNY- and CUNY-affiliated nonprofits, which were not passed with the budget. SUNY-affiliated contracts were at the center of a major bid-rigging scandal that led to the corruption conviction last year of Alain Kaloyeros, a former top economic development aide to Cuomo, and prominent donors to Cuomo’s campaign.</p> <p>The budget does appropriate $500,000 to administratively implement a “database of deals,” which is meant to outline projects receiving state economic development benefits. But the appropriation does not detail whether the database would be created in a way that would make it transparent or easily accessible. Advocates have pushed to make it downloadable and machine-readable for easy analysis. “None of the functionality that we would want to see in a database is specified,” Camarda said. “A bigger problem is there are no requirements as to what information should be included and there are no definitions.”</p> <p>Cuomo did include a specific provision in the budget that expands his authority over the Public Authorities Control Board, a direct response to the undoing of the deal to bring an Amazon campus to Queens. Cuomo has repeatedly blamed the failure of the deal on the state Senate’s nomination of Amazon-opponent Senator Mike Gianaris to the PACB, which would have final approval of a portion of the subsidies offered to the tech giant. The new budget allows Cuomo to remove a member of the PACB who oversteps, or threatens to overstep their authority.</p> <p>

***
by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
Historic New York Voting Reforms Must Be Funded, and Followed by More Changes to Improve Our Democracy 2019-02-07T05:00:00+00:00 2019-02-07T05:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8257-historic-new-york-voting-reforms-must-be-funded-and-followed-by-more-changes-to-improve-our-democracy Ben Max <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/gov-cuomo-votes.jpg" alt="gov cuomo votes" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p>(photo: Kevin P. Coughlin/Office of the Governor)</p> <hr /> <p>On January 14, the New York State Assembly and Senate made their mark on New York voting history. After over 100 years without meaningful reform, legislators passed six bills that will significantly increase voter access to the polls and the reach of their voices. On January 25, Governor Cuomo codified this historic expansion and signed those bills into law. Important legislative priorities such as early voting, pre-registration of 16- and 17-year-olds, registration portability, and the consolidation of our state and federal primaries are now state law. Our legislators also took a significant step toward changing our constitution to allow for same-day registration and no-excuse absentee voting by mail.</p> <p>It is important to note amidst the celebration of grassroots and advocacy groups who have been fighting for these reforms that our work, and the work of our representatives, is not complete. Transformative reforms such as automatic voter registration, the restoration of the voting rights for people on parole, establishing a universal right to vote, and shortening the deadline to change party affiliation were starkly absent from the legislation passed. Many of these common sense reforms are long overdue.</p> <p>Our elected representatives have received well-deserved praise for taking decisive action in the process of bringing New York’s voting laws into the 21st century by prioritizing and passing legislation that was stymied for far too long. However, not only is there more to do, but New York is once again faced with the unfortunate and unnecessary lack of transparency that has become synonymous with state government in Albany.</p> <p>Voting reform has the exciting potential to bring more people into the democratic process. But New York will not be a leader in democracy until the process of governing embodies openness, accountability, and greater participation. Reform must not stop with the passage of the aforementioned voting legislation, but requires inclusion of the once-honored legislative processes of hearings, debate, and public comment. Our elected representatives, as they consider and take further action, should seek out the voices of their constituents.</p> <p>New Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins says their work is not done, and so we too must continue to work and hold our representatives accountable until no one is left behind and New York is the embodiment of a democracy we can all be proud of.</p> <p>As the chief executive of New York State, and the keeper of the state budget, Governor Cuomo is now tasked with implementation and ensuring new reforms are appropriately funded. It is concerning that his proposed executive budget lacks specific funding allocated for early voting. Just last year, Cuomo, in the face of intransigence and hostility in the state Senate, allocated $7 million for early voting in the executive budget. When this year provided with passed legislation to sign and implement, why would the governor not designate funding specifically for early voting in his budget? &nbsp;</p> <p>Cuomo <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/statement-communications-director-dani-lever-covering-costs-early-voting?fbclid=IwAR2X4o-L057DBAZmXd3kG7G_3d2QEYQpyvjFNmQoI9dvg13A-O63iSu13nE" target="_blank" rel="noopener">states</a> that the cost of early voting will be covered by the consolidation of the federal and state primaries combined with the new sales tax revenue to be collected from the elimination of the internet tax advantage. Neither of these revenue streams will be available to county Boards of Elections in time to fund early voting in 2019. It is puzzling why now, at this historic moment, the governor would withhold designated funding for a reform he supports and for which he allocated money only a year ago.</p> <p>During his “First 100 Days” speech given in December, Cuomo criticized the federal government's attempts to disenfranchise voters, and stated that "we have to do the exact opposite and improve our democracy.” The reality is that to improve our democracy after over a century of inaction, it is going to take money. And to prove a commitment to the reforms being passed by the Legislature, the same reforms he himself has called for throughout his tenure, the governor must commit real dollars for implementation this year.</p> <p>The governor and the leadership of the Assembly and Senate must stand true to their promises and ensure these reforms are appropriately implemented and adequately funded. Now is the time for clear, decisive action. It is not the time for unfunded promises, backroom deals, or excuses. Do not give us reform in name only. There must be a line item in the budget to specifically and sufficiently fund early voting.</p> <p>All interested parties should work together to make sure the counties are provided with funding and support so that they are prepared for these changes and voters can take advantage of them seamlessly. Voting reform advocates statewide will continue to fight so that we the people can access our most fundamental right to vote. We believe in our elected representatives and we know they can get this done.</p> <p>***<br />Nicole Hunt is on the executive committee of Brooklyn Voters Alliance, a grassroots group dedicated to strengthening democracy in New York State. On Twitter<a href="https://twitter.com/msnicolemh"> @msnicolemh</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/bkvoters" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@bkvoters</a>.</p> <p>

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

</p>
<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/gov-cuomo-votes.jpg" alt="gov cuomo votes" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p>(photo: Kevin P. Coughlin/Office of the Governor)</p> <hr /> <p>On January 14, the New York State Assembly and Senate made their mark on New York voting history. After over 100 years without meaningful reform, legislators passed six bills that will significantly increase voter access to the polls and the reach of their voices. On January 25, Governor Cuomo codified this historic expansion and signed those bills into law. Important legislative priorities such as early voting, pre-registration of 16- and 17-year-olds, registration portability, and the consolidation of our state and federal primaries are now state law. Our legislators also took a significant step toward changing our constitution to allow for same-day registration and no-excuse absentee voting by mail.</p> <p>It is important to note amidst the celebration of grassroots and advocacy groups who have been fighting for these reforms that our work, and the work of our representatives, is not complete. Transformative reforms such as automatic voter registration, the restoration of the voting rights for people on parole, establishing a universal right to vote, and shortening the deadline to change party affiliation were starkly absent from the legislation passed. Many of these common sense reforms are long overdue.</p> <p>Our elected representatives have received well-deserved praise for taking decisive action in the process of bringing New York’s voting laws into the 21st century by prioritizing and passing legislation that was stymied for far too long. However, not only is there more to do, but New York is once again faced with the unfortunate and unnecessary lack of transparency that has become synonymous with state government in Albany.</p> <p>Voting reform has the exciting potential to bring more people into the democratic process. But New York will not be a leader in democracy until the process of governing embodies openness, accountability, and greater participation. Reform must not stop with the passage of the aforementioned voting legislation, but requires inclusion of the once-honored legislative processes of hearings, debate, and public comment. Our elected representatives, as they consider and take further action, should seek out the voices of their constituents.</p> <p>New Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins says their work is not done, and so we too must continue to work and hold our representatives accountable until no one is left behind and New York is the embodiment of a democracy we can all be proud of.</p> <p>As the chief executive of New York State, and the keeper of the state budget, Governor Cuomo is now tasked with implementation and ensuring new reforms are appropriately funded. It is concerning that his proposed executive budget lacks specific funding allocated for early voting. Just last year, Cuomo, in the face of intransigence and hostility in the state Senate, allocated $7 million for early voting in the executive budget. When this year provided with passed legislation to sign and implement, why would the governor not designate funding specifically for early voting in his budget? &nbsp;</p> <p>Cuomo <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/statement-communications-director-dani-lever-covering-costs-early-voting?fbclid=IwAR2X4o-L057DBAZmXd3kG7G_3d2QEYQpyvjFNmQoI9dvg13A-O63iSu13nE" target="_blank" rel="noopener">states</a> that the cost of early voting will be covered by the consolidation of the federal and state primaries combined with the new sales tax revenue to be collected from the elimination of the internet tax advantage. Neither of these revenue streams will be available to county Boards of Elections in time to fund early voting in 2019. It is puzzling why now, at this historic moment, the governor would withhold designated funding for a reform he supports and for which he allocated money only a year ago.</p> <p>During his “First 100 Days” speech given in December, Cuomo criticized the federal government's attempts to disenfranchise voters, and stated that "we have to do the exact opposite and improve our democracy.” The reality is that to improve our democracy after over a century of inaction, it is going to take money. And to prove a commitment to the reforms being passed by the Legislature, the same reforms he himself has called for throughout his tenure, the governor must commit real dollars for implementation this year.</p> <p>The governor and the leadership of the Assembly and Senate must stand true to their promises and ensure these reforms are appropriately implemented and adequately funded. Now is the time for clear, decisive action. It is not the time for unfunded promises, backroom deals, or excuses. Do not give us reform in name only. There must be a line item in the budget to specifically and sufficiently fund early voting.</p> <p>All interested parties should work together to make sure the counties are provided with funding and support so that they are prepared for these changes and voters can take advantage of them seamlessly. Voting reform advocates statewide will continue to fight so that we the people can access our most fundamental right to vote. We believe in our elected representatives and we know they can get this done.</p> <p>***<br />Nicole Hunt is on the executive committee of Brooklyn Voters Alliance, a grassroots group dedicated to strengthening democracy in New York State. On Twitter<a href="https://twitter.com/msnicolemh"> @msnicolemh</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/bkvoters" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@bkvoters</a>.</p> <p>

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

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WATCH: Agenda 2019: Movement Expected on Reform, But What Will It Look Like? 2018-12-06T05:00:00+00:00 2018-12-06T05:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8119-watch-agenda-2019-movement-expected-on-reform-but-what-will-it-look-like Ben Max <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/mnn-agenda-ep2.jpg" alt="mnn agenda ep2" width="600" /></p> <p>(photo: @MNN59)</p> <hr /> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>This is part of AGENDA 2019, a joint Gotham Gazette-City Limits project<br /><a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8029-agenda-2019">Find the rest of the series here</a></em></p> <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/mnn59-agenda-ep2.jpg" alt="mnn59 agenda ep2" width="194" height="181" style="margin-right: 10px; float: left;" />As part of Agenda 2019, the project from Gotham Gazette and City Limits, hosts Ben Max and Jarrett Murphy were joined on Manhattan Neighborhood Network by State Senator Liz Krueger, a Manhattan Democrat, and Susan Lerner, executive director of Common Cause NY, to discuss reform issues and the year ahead. Topics included voting and election reform, government ethics reform, and campaign finance reform. Krueger's new Democratic majority in the state Senate are pledging to work with the Democratic Assembly majority and Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo to usher through a long list of stalled reforms, but what will actually get done? And what should it look like? Watch:</p> <p><iframe src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/Z-NHHZpuvcA" width="560" height="315" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen"></iframe></p> <p style="text-align: center;">&nbsp;<a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8029-agenda-2019"><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/agenda19v2-a.jpg" alt="Gotham Gazette: " width="261" height="131" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>This is part of AGENDA 2019, a joint Gotham Gazette-City Limits project<br /><a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8029-agenda-2019">Find the rest of the series here</a></em></p> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/mnn-agenda-ep2.jpg" alt="mnn agenda ep2" width="600" /></p> <p>(photo: @MNN59)</p> <hr /> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>This is part of AGENDA 2019, a joint Gotham Gazette-City Limits project<br /><a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8029-agenda-2019">Find the rest of the series here</a></em></p> <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/mnn59-agenda-ep2.jpg" alt="mnn59 agenda ep2" width="194" height="181" style="margin-right: 10px; float: left;" />As part of Agenda 2019, the project from Gotham Gazette and City Limits, hosts Ben Max and Jarrett Murphy were joined on Manhattan Neighborhood Network by State Senator Liz Krueger, a Manhattan Democrat, and Susan Lerner, executive director of Common Cause NY, to discuss reform issues and the year ahead. Topics included voting and election reform, government ethics reform, and campaign finance reform. Krueger's new Democratic majority in the state Senate are pledging to work with the Democratic Assembly majority and Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo to usher through a long list of stalled reforms, but what will actually get done? And what should it look like? Watch:</p> <p><iframe src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/Z-NHHZpuvcA" width="560" height="315" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen"></iframe></p> <p style="text-align: center;">&nbsp;<a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8029-agenda-2019"><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/agenda19v2-a.jpg" alt="Gotham Gazette: " width="261" height="131" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>This is part of AGENDA 2019, a joint Gotham Gazette-City Limits project<br /><a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8029-agenda-2019">Find the rest of the series here</a></em></p> <p>

***
by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
Fix New York’s Broken Balloting and Election Laws 2018-11-07T05:00:00+00:00 2018-11-07T05:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8059-fix-new-york-s-broken-balloting-and-election-laws Ben Max <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/37538369094_848cd1720a_z.jpg" alt="voting booths polling place" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>(photo: Gotham Gazette)</p> <hr /> <p>On Tuesday millions of New Yorkers attempted to exercise their constitutional right to vote. However, far too many in New York City were met with <a href="https://twitter.com/electionland/status/1059921455117414400/photo/1?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E1059921455117414400&amp;ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.citylab.com%2Fequity%2F2018%2F11%2Fnew-york-city-polling-place-vote-suppression-lines-machines%2F575074%2F" target="_blank" rel="noopener">broken ballot scanners</a> and hours-long lines that stretched for blocks in the pouring rain. It is encouraging to see so many citizens making the time and effort to vote, but incredibly disheartening to see our broken election system failing them.</p> <p>With the impending arrival of the long-awaited trifecta of Democratic leadership in New York State (Democratic Governor, Senate and Assembly) alongside reform-minded allies in New York City government, fixing our archaic and ineffective electoral process should be the first order of business once the new Legislature is seated in January.</p> <p>At polling sites across New York City there were reports of at least one – and sometimes all – ballot scanners malfunctioning. Thousands of voters braved hours of waiting and confusion just to fill out unscanned emergency ballots. Even in places where some of the scanners did work (such as the paltry two at my polling place in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn), poll sites and workers seemed overwhelmed by the dramatic turnout -- which still wasn’t even at 40% in the city or anywhere near presidential election levels.</p> <p>We will never know how many voters gave up on the long lines and didn’t vote, or what the chilling effect may be on future turnout. The initial response from the Board of Elections on the scanner malfunctions is that soggy or imperfectly torn ballots jammed the machines. Aren’t these issues we could -- and should -- have prepared for? Regardless of the merit of these questionable excuses, the bigger issue is clear: our current election systems are incapable of meeting the needs of our electorate.</p> <p>It’s not just machines and preparation.</p> <p>New York trails other states across the board in voting laws and procedures. One of the main reasons for the problems this past Tuesday is that poll sites were simply overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of voters attempting to vote on a single day – there weren’t enough poll workers or scanners. This is why <a href="http://www.ncsl.org/research/elections-and-campaigns/absentee-and-early-voting.aspx" target="_blank" rel="noopener">37 other states have enacted some form of early voting</a>, which expands the eligible voting period. This both lessens the logjam on a single day and has the added benefit of giving voters more flexibility. It also can help flag issues like machine jams due to two-page ballots.</p> <p>Early voting in other states over the past few weeks saw a <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2018/11/05/politics/early-voting-as-of-monday-morning/index.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">surge in young and first-time voters</a>, the same voters who may have given up on voting Tuesday or have already become jaded by the experience.</p> <p>Relatedly, New York is the <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/25/nyregion/new-york-primary-congress-state-federal.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">only state in the entire nation</a> which holds its state and federal primaries on separate days, which is incredibly confusing for the average voter and fiscally wasteful. With the additional $25 million or so spent on having a second primary day, New York could make great strides towards enacting early voting. New York also holds “closed” (party-based) primaries with the <a href="http://www.nyccfb.info/media/blog/dont-miss-party-primaries-2016" target="_blank" rel="noopener">earliest party registration deadlines</a> in the nation, which caused an uproar in the last presidential election. Where other states have enacted additional pro-voter participation features such as same-day registration and pre-registration for 16- and 17-year-olds, New York continues to fall further and further behind. These policy shortcomings are compounded by additional confusion such as the <a href="https://www.nbcnews.com/news/asian-america/new-york-city-board-elections-settles-lawsuit-over-voter-purge-n816941" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Brooklyn “voter purge”</a> in 2016 and the more recent 400,000 person <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/16/nyregion/inactive-voter-letter-nyc.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">“inactive voter” misfire</a> just last month. Our elected leaders at the city and state levels must take a close look at both our laws and the Board of Elections.</p> <p>With all of these issues, it is truly amazing how many voters turned up on Tuesday in a state with such a dismal record. New York State has the fourth most registered voters of any state in the nation, but had the eighth worst turnout in the 2016 presidential election. Imagine how many people might vote if they had an extra day (or several) to do so, if the lines were shorter, and if they could count on ballot scanners working.</p> <p>It is time for New York City and State to finally make strides on voting access and ease and catch up with the rest of the nation. Our democracy depends on it.</p> <p>***<br /> Jamie Ansorge is an Attorney at Cozen O’Conner, Executive Board Member of the New Leaders Council NYC Chapter, and Co-Chair of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) Young Professional Leadership Council. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/AnsorgeNYC" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@AnsorgeNYC</a>.</p> <p>

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

</p>
<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/37538369094_848cd1720a_z.jpg" alt="voting booths polling place" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>(photo: Gotham Gazette)</p> <hr /> <p>On Tuesday millions of New Yorkers attempted to exercise their constitutional right to vote. However, far too many in New York City were met with <a href="https://twitter.com/electionland/status/1059921455117414400/photo/1?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E1059921455117414400&amp;ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.citylab.com%2Fequity%2F2018%2F11%2Fnew-york-city-polling-place-vote-suppression-lines-machines%2F575074%2F" target="_blank" rel="noopener">broken ballot scanners</a> and hours-long lines that stretched for blocks in the pouring rain. It is encouraging to see so many citizens making the time and effort to vote, but incredibly disheartening to see our broken election system failing them.</p> <p>With the impending arrival of the long-awaited trifecta of Democratic leadership in New York State (Democratic Governor, Senate and Assembly) alongside reform-minded allies in New York City government, fixing our archaic and ineffective electoral process should be the first order of business once the new Legislature is seated in January.</p> <p>At polling sites across New York City there were reports of at least one – and sometimes all – ballot scanners malfunctioning. Thousands of voters braved hours of waiting and confusion just to fill out unscanned emergency ballots. Even in places where some of the scanners did work (such as the paltry two at my polling place in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn), poll sites and workers seemed overwhelmed by the dramatic turnout -- which still wasn’t even at 40% in the city or anywhere near presidential election levels.</p> <p>We will never know how many voters gave up on the long lines and didn’t vote, or what the chilling effect may be on future turnout. The initial response from the Board of Elections on the scanner malfunctions is that soggy or imperfectly torn ballots jammed the machines. Aren’t these issues we could -- and should -- have prepared for? Regardless of the merit of these questionable excuses, the bigger issue is clear: our current election systems are incapable of meeting the needs of our electorate.</p> <p>It’s not just machines and preparation.</p> <p>New York trails other states across the board in voting laws and procedures. One of the main reasons for the problems this past Tuesday is that poll sites were simply overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of voters attempting to vote on a single day – there weren’t enough poll workers or scanners. This is why <a href="http://www.ncsl.org/research/elections-and-campaigns/absentee-and-early-voting.aspx" target="_blank" rel="noopener">37 other states have enacted some form of early voting</a>, which expands the eligible voting period. This both lessens the logjam on a single day and has the added benefit of giving voters more flexibility. It also can help flag issues like machine jams due to two-page ballots.</p> <p>Early voting in other states over the past few weeks saw a <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2018/11/05/politics/early-voting-as-of-monday-morning/index.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">surge in young and first-time voters</a>, the same voters who may have given up on voting Tuesday or have already become jaded by the experience.</p> <p>Relatedly, New York is the <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/25/nyregion/new-york-primary-congress-state-federal.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">only state in the entire nation</a> which holds its state and federal primaries on separate days, which is incredibly confusing for the average voter and fiscally wasteful. With the additional $25 million or so spent on having a second primary day, New York could make great strides towards enacting early voting. New York also holds “closed” (party-based) primaries with the <a href="http://www.nyccfb.info/media/blog/dont-miss-party-primaries-2016" target="_blank" rel="noopener">earliest party registration deadlines</a> in the nation, which caused an uproar in the last presidential election. Where other states have enacted additional pro-voter participation features such as same-day registration and pre-registration for 16- and 17-year-olds, New York continues to fall further and further behind. These policy shortcomings are compounded by additional confusion such as the <a href="https://www.nbcnews.com/news/asian-america/new-york-city-board-elections-settles-lawsuit-over-voter-purge-n816941" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Brooklyn “voter purge”</a> in 2016 and the more recent 400,000 person <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/16/nyregion/inactive-voter-letter-nyc.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">“inactive voter” misfire</a> just last month. Our elected leaders at the city and state levels must take a close look at both our laws and the Board of Elections.</p> <p>With all of these issues, it is truly amazing how many voters turned up on Tuesday in a state with such a dismal record. New York State has the fourth most registered voters of any state in the nation, but had the eighth worst turnout in the 2016 presidential election. Imagine how many people might vote if they had an extra day (or several) to do so, if the lines were shorter, and if they could count on ballot scanners working.</p> <p>It is time for New York City and State to finally make strides on voting access and ease and catch up with the rest of the nation. Our democracy depends on it.</p> <p>***<br /> Jamie Ansorge is an Attorney at Cozen O’Conner, Executive Board Member of the New Leaders Council NYC Chapter, and Co-Chair of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) Young Professional Leadership Council. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/AnsorgeNYC" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@AnsorgeNYC</a>.</p> <p>

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

</p>
Cuomo Touts Political Ad Transparency Law as Other Reforms Languish 2018-04-18T04:00:00+00:00 2018-04-18T04:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7623-cuomo-touts-political-ad-transparency-law-as-other-reforms-languish Ben Max <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/41505108962_8856f0a733_z.jpg" alt="Cuomo bill signing democracy" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p>Cuomo at Wednesday's bill-signing (photo:&nbsp;Kevin P. Coughlin/Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Governor Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday held a ceremonial bill-signing, one of several since the state budget was approved, to tout the passage of new restrictions and disclosure requirements for political advertisements on social media. But the bill was a component of Cuomo’s larger Democracy Agenda, measures including voting and campaign finance reform that otherwise fell by the wayside during budget negotiations and seem unlikely to pass in the remaining months of the legislative session in Albany. &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>“We have a crisis in our election system,” Cuomo told a room full of people at the Cardozo School of Law in Manhattan on Wednesday. “We now know that our election system was influenced and tampered with by foreign entities. And it’s not partisan rhetoric, it’s not a science fiction novel. We know it. Russia was involved.”</p> <p>Prompted by the widespread Russian influence campaign that targeted nearly two dozen states during the 2016 presidential election and the proliferation of secretive political advertising on social media platforms like Facebook, Cuomo proposed and the state Legislature successfully passed the “Democracy Protection Act,” which prohibits foreign entities from creating independent expenditure committees or buying political ads, requires anyone who purchases an online political ad to register as an independent expenditure committee, and also requires online ads to include information about who paid for them, as is currently required of traditional media platforms.</p> <p>The state Board of Elections will also now create an public archive of those online ads and retain them for five years.</p> <p>“We right now have a toxic cocktail that has brewed,” Cuomo said of the “explosion of social media” and the “anonymity” and “targeting ability” of social media platforms. “They know your preferences, they know who you are, what you look like, what you buy, where you shop. They know your shoe size and they can target a message just to you,” he said, “and we then have the access by the foreign entities to these online platforms.”</p> <p>Cuomo loftily insisted that the legislation will “fundamentally change” elections in the state and predicted, “This law is going to force national change.” Several progressive movements -- for women’s rights, environmental rights, worker safety rules, gay rights, civil rights -- he exclaimed, started in New York and that inaction in Washington, D.C. necessitates that states forge ahead on tackling the issues accompanying elections in the digital age.</p> <p>But New York leading the way on election and campaign-related reforms appears to be an imperfect message from New York and a messenger like Cuomo. The state has been a laggard on improving voter participation and access, and its outdated laws fall far behind most other states. Cuomo himself has railed against weaknesses in state campaign finance laws while exploiting them for his own campaigns.</p> <p>In 2017, Cuomo released a 10-point government ethics and voting reform agenda, which included early voting, automatic voter registration, same-day voter registration, and campaign finance changes such as closing the LLC loophole, which allows anonymous donors to flood candidates’ campaign coffers in New York. Cuomo has been one of the biggest beneficiaries of that loophole and has done little to actually push for its closure. None of those reforms passed last year.</p> <p>This year, Cuomo proposed many of the reforms again, adding $7 million in <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-announces-30-day-budget-amendments-fund-early-voting-across-new-york" target="_blank" rel="noopener">proposed funding</a> to implement early voting and banning outside income for legislators. But yet again, all but the online ads bill fell through. Cuomo made no mention of the other planks of his Democracy Agenda at Wednesday’s celebratory event, where he positioned New York as a national leader. He also took no questions from reporters at the two events where he made appearances Wednesday.</p> <p>Most of the reforms are opposed by Republicans in the state Senate who continue to control the chamber with the help of a rogue Democratic Senator, Simcha Felder of Brooklyn, who caucuses with the GOP to give them a one-vote majority. But Cuomo, when he wants to, has been able to convince Republicans to vote through bills that they might traditionally oppose including marriage equality, gun control measures, and a major hike in the minimum wage.</p> <p>Cuomo has repeatedly laid the blame for the failure of his proposals on the Republicans, who for seven years were allied with a breakaway group of eight Democratic Senators called the Independent Democratic Conference. In a deal recently brokered by Cuomo, the IDC rejoined the mainline Democratic conference. The Democrats are now counting on victories in special elections for two state Senate races on April 24 to be on par with Republicans in the Senate. Felder’s loyalty in that situation remains an open question. Cuomo has said the goal is to then pick up additional seats in the fall’s regularly-scheduled elections for all seats in the Legislature.</p> <p>Earlier on Wednesday, Cuomo restored voting rights to individuals on parole through an executive order, arguing that the order was necessary since the measure wouldn’t have passed the Senate. (Cuomo’s primary opponent Cynthia Nixon, and others have said, however, that Cuomo is increasingly pursuing popular progressive measures by any means necessary because of the threat of a strong primary challenge.)</p> <p>Similarly, Cuomo justified the unification deal by insisting it was necessary to pass progressive reforms that have failed for years. “We finished the budget. We did a lot of good things in the budget, but there are also things that we didn’t pass that we need to pass...The Child Victims Act, more gun safety, bail reform, the DREAM Act, banning outside income, campaign finance reform, early voting,” he said at a news conference announcing the deal at his executive offices in Manhattan.</p> <p>He went on, “These are all core, essential progressive principles that were not passed in the budget and which we will not pass until we have a Democratic Senate.” It’s unclear, however, if a Democratic Senate itself will come to pass any time soon, or if the appetite would be there for the types of voting, campaign finance, and government ethics reforms that Cuomo has said he supports.</p> <p style="text-align: center;">[Read: <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7591-cuomo-turns-budget-failures-into-justification-for-democratic-unity" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Cuomo Turns Budget Failures Into Justification for Democratic Unity</a>]</p> <p>

***
by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/41505108962_8856f0a733_z.jpg" alt="Cuomo bill signing democracy" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p>Cuomo at Wednesday's bill-signing (photo:&nbsp;Kevin P. Coughlin/Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Governor Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday held a ceremonial bill-signing, one of several since the state budget was approved, to tout the passage of new restrictions and disclosure requirements for political advertisements on social media. But the bill was a component of Cuomo’s larger Democracy Agenda, measures including voting and campaign finance reform that otherwise fell by the wayside during budget negotiations and seem unlikely to pass in the remaining months of the legislative session in Albany. &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>“We have a crisis in our election system,” Cuomo told a room full of people at the Cardozo School of Law in Manhattan on Wednesday. “We now know that our election system was influenced and tampered with by foreign entities. And it’s not partisan rhetoric, it’s not a science fiction novel. We know it. Russia was involved.”</p> <p>Prompted by the widespread Russian influence campaign that targeted nearly two dozen states during the 2016 presidential election and the proliferation of secretive political advertising on social media platforms like Facebook, Cuomo proposed and the state Legislature successfully passed the “Democracy Protection Act,” which prohibits foreign entities from creating independent expenditure committees or buying political ads, requires anyone who purchases an online political ad to register as an independent expenditure committee, and also requires online ads to include information about who paid for them, as is currently required of traditional media platforms.</p> <p>The state Board of Elections will also now create an public archive of those online ads and retain them for five years.</p> <p>“We right now have a toxic cocktail that has brewed,” Cuomo said of the “explosion of social media” and the “anonymity” and “targeting ability” of social media platforms. “They know your preferences, they know who you are, what you look like, what you buy, where you shop. They know your shoe size and they can target a message just to you,” he said, “and we then have the access by the foreign entities to these online platforms.”</p> <p>Cuomo loftily insisted that the legislation will “fundamentally change” elections in the state and predicted, “This law is going to force national change.” Several progressive movements -- for women’s rights, environmental rights, worker safety rules, gay rights, civil rights -- he exclaimed, started in New York and that inaction in Washington, D.C. necessitates that states forge ahead on tackling the issues accompanying elections in the digital age.</p> <p>But New York leading the way on election and campaign-related reforms appears to be an imperfect message from New York and a messenger like Cuomo. The state has been a laggard on improving voter participation and access, and its outdated laws fall far behind most other states. Cuomo himself has railed against weaknesses in state campaign finance laws while exploiting them for his own campaigns.</p> <p>In 2017, Cuomo released a 10-point government ethics and voting reform agenda, which included early voting, automatic voter registration, same-day voter registration, and campaign finance changes such as closing the LLC loophole, which allows anonymous donors to flood candidates’ campaign coffers in New York. Cuomo has been one of the biggest beneficiaries of that loophole and has done little to actually push for its closure. None of those reforms passed last year.</p> <p>This year, Cuomo proposed many of the reforms again, adding $7 million in <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-announces-30-day-budget-amendments-fund-early-voting-across-new-york" target="_blank" rel="noopener">proposed funding</a> to implement early voting and banning outside income for legislators. But yet again, all but the online ads bill fell through. Cuomo made no mention of the other planks of his Democracy Agenda at Wednesday’s celebratory event, where he positioned New York as a national leader. He also took no questions from reporters at the two events where he made appearances Wednesday.</p> <p>Most of the reforms are opposed by Republicans in the state Senate who continue to control the chamber with the help of a rogue Democratic Senator, Simcha Felder of Brooklyn, who caucuses with the GOP to give them a one-vote majority. But Cuomo, when he wants to, has been able to convince Republicans to vote through bills that they might traditionally oppose including marriage equality, gun control measures, and a major hike in the minimum wage.</p> <p>Cuomo has repeatedly laid the blame for the failure of his proposals on the Republicans, who for seven years were allied with a breakaway group of eight Democratic Senators called the Independent Democratic Conference. In a deal recently brokered by Cuomo, the IDC rejoined the mainline Democratic conference. The Democrats are now counting on victories in special elections for two state Senate races on April 24 to be on par with Republicans in the Senate. Felder’s loyalty in that situation remains an open question. Cuomo has said the goal is to then pick up additional seats in the fall’s regularly-scheduled elections for all seats in the Legislature.</p> <p>Earlier on Wednesday, Cuomo restored voting rights to individuals on parole through an executive order, arguing that the order was necessary since the measure wouldn’t have passed the Senate. (Cuomo’s primary opponent Cynthia Nixon, and others have said, however, that Cuomo is increasingly pursuing popular progressive measures by any means necessary because of the threat of a strong primary challenge.)</p> <p>Similarly, Cuomo justified the unification deal by insisting it was necessary to pass progressive reforms that have failed for years. “We finished the budget. We did a lot of good things in the budget, but there are also things that we didn’t pass that we need to pass...The Child Victims Act, more gun safety, bail reform, the DREAM Act, banning outside income, campaign finance reform, early voting,” he said at a news conference announcing the deal at his executive offices in Manhattan.</p> <p>He went on, “These are all core, essential progressive principles that were not passed in the budget and which we will not pass until we have a Democratic Senate.” It’s unclear, however, if a Democratic Senate itself will come to pass any time soon, or if the appetite would be there for the types of voting, campaign finance, and government ethics reforms that Cuomo has said he supports.</p> <p style="text-align: center;">[Read: <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7591-cuomo-turns-budget-failures-into-justification-for-democratic-unity" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Cuomo Turns Budget Failures Into Justification for Democratic Unity</a>]</p> <p>

***
by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
Three Voting Reforms New York Must Pass This Year 2018-02-13T05:00:00+00:00 2018-02-13T05:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/7474-three-voting-reforms-new-york-must-pass-this-year Ben Max <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/op-ed-carlucci.jpg" alt="op ed carlucci" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>State Senator David Carlucci, the author</p> <hr /> <p>New York’s voting laws are woefully outdated and lag behind much of the rest of our country.&nbsp;Too many New Yorkers experience unfair and unnecessary restrictions when they wish to exercise their constitutional right to vote.&nbsp;Unsurprisingly, New York consistently ranks near the bottom in voter turnout when compared to other states.</p> <p>According to 24/7 Wall St., an average of only 59.2% of eligible New York voters voted in the presidential elections from 2000 through 2012. That makes New York 42nd among the 50 states in voter turnout.&nbsp;As disappointing as these figures are, voter turnout has been even lower in midterm and state elections.&nbsp;This is why we need voting reform in our state.</p> <p>I applaud Governor Cuomo’s 30-day budget amendment that calls for $7 million to fund early voting in counties across the state. New York is one of only 13 states that does not offer early voting, a deficiency we must change now.&nbsp;New Yorkers are busy, having the convenient option to go to the polls up to 12 days before Election Day means people don’t have to choose between going to work or school and voting.&nbsp;It is time we join the other 37 states and the District of Columbia (Washington, D.C.) and provide New Yorkers with access to early voting.&nbsp;A recent&nbsp;Siena&nbsp;College poll indicates that 65% of New Yorkers support early voting.</p> <p>Automatic voter registration (AVR) is another proposal that New York should adopt.&nbsp;AVR&nbsp;allows people to be automatically registered to vote when they interact with the Department of Motor Vehicles. People would no longer have to worry about registration deadlines or application submissions.&nbsp;After witnessing the success of&nbsp;AVR&nbsp;in Oregon, eight other states have approved it.&nbsp; No citizen should ever be denied his or her constitutional right to vote, and we should make the registration process easy and convenient. I have fought for legislation to enact&nbsp;AVR&nbsp;since 2015. This is the year to pass it.</p> <p>Finally, same-day voter registration (SDR) should be enacted so eligible New York voters can register to vote the same day they go to the polls. This eliminates registration deadlines people may miss. Fifteen states and Washington, D.C. have adopted some form of&nbsp;SDR.&nbsp;In their report entitled “America Goes to the Polls 2016,” Nonprofit VOTE and the U.S. Elections Project claim that same-day voter registration “has the most&nbsp;discernible&nbsp;impact on increasing voter turnout.”&nbsp;These organizations estimate that since 1996, states that allow SDR have experienced voter turnout seven to 13 points higher, on average, than states without SDR.&nbsp;</p> <p>For too long, New York voting laws have suppressed voter turnout and have discouraged public participation in governance.&nbsp;I stand by the Governor’s plan to reform voting, and I encourage my fellow elected representatives to enact these proposals.</p> <p>***<br /> David Carlucci is the state senator representing the 38th Senate district. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/DavidCarlucci" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@DavidCarlucci</a>.</p> <p>

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

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

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by Rachel Silberstein, State government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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

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by Rachel Silberstein, State government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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As Session Nears End, Electoral Reforms Mostly Stalled & Cuomo Quiet 2017-06-04T04:00:00+00:00 2017-06-04T04:00:00+00:00 https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/6972-as-session-nears-end-electoral-reforms-mostly-stalled-cuomo-quiet Ben Max <p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/22127912963_5f30becd97_z_3.jpg" alt="Cuomo voting 2015" width="600" height="390" /></p> <p>Gov. Cuomo votes (photo: The Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Governor Andrew Cuomo’s <a href="http://www.politico.com/states/new-york/albany/story/2017/04/cuomo-says-goodbye-to-albany-and-any-ethics-push-for-the-year-111271" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">prediction</a> that there is insufficient political will at the New York State Legislature to pass any significant voting reform measures this year may be coming to fruition.</p> <p>During the final weeks before the end of the legislative session, this year June 21 -- when lawmakers leave the Capitol and return to their districts for the remainder of the year -- there is typically a final thrust for policy measures that did not make it into the budget, which this year was passed in early April.</p> <p>On the electoral front, there has been a growing push from voting reform activists, civil rights organizations, and some Democratic elected officials to modernize New York’s arcane system, but, given the reluctance of Senate Republicans and, at least in part, Cuomo’s lack of prioritization of electoral reform despite saying in January he backs an ambitious agenda, major reforms appear to be elusive.</p> <p>Citing numerous barriers faced by voters during the 2016 elections, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and New York City Bill de Blasio have joined the call for Albany to pass meaningful electoral reform, a cause that has been <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/6908-activists-lawmakers-rally-for-voting-reform-at-capitol" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">championed</a> by other Democrats in the state Assembly majority and Senate minority.</p> <p>Democrats in both legislative houses have introduced a slew of voting reform bills -- including legislation on early voting, automatic voter registration, electronic poll books, and “no excuse” absentee ballots, among other measures -- as they do each year. While most <a href="http://nyassembly.gov/Press/20170515/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">passed</a> the Democrat-controlled Assembly, as usual, the efforts are stalled in the Senate, where Republicans control the chamber by a slim majority given the help of Senator Simcha Felder, a nominal Democrat who conferences with Republicans, and bolstered by the Independent Democratic Conference (IDC) in a coalition agreement.</p> <p>The Senate has passed a significantly slimmer electoral package, most of which would do little to increase voter access or enhance voter registration.</p> <p>So far, the only electoral legislation passed in both houses would allow polling place inspectors to work eight-hour half-shifts, when previously they were made to work 16-hour days. It is a move intended to help Boards of Elections recruit staff and improve efficiency on election days.</p> <p>Another piece of legislation, sponsored by IDC Senator Diane Savino and Assemblymember Amy Paulin in their respective chambers, would require special ballots to be mailed to domestic violence victims and has passed each house’s election committee and is calendared for floor votes.</p> <p>The Assembly election committee <a href="http://nyassembly.gov/leg/?sh=agen2&amp;agenda=2017-06-02-20.51.46.129889&amp;ver=2017-06-02-20.51.46.188449&amp;ano=18&amp;com=Election%20Law" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">is meeting</a> on Tuesday, June 6, to consider a dozen more electoral law changes.</p> <p>Other relatively minor pieces of electoral <a href="https://www.nysenate.gov/legislation/bills/2017/S1567/amendment/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">legislation</a> close to being passed in both houses relate to the way candidates are listed on the ballot, the creation of an inventory of official campaign websites, and protecting the ballot information of domestic violence victims.</p> <p>One sign of the lack of agreement on major electoral reforms, though, relates to consolidating New York’s repetitive primary election days, a cause that has bipartisan support -- in theory. Both the Senate and Assembly have passed bills to consolidate federal and state primary elections -- a move projected to save the state $25 million and help increase voter turnout -- however the houses cannot disagree on which month to hold the joint election.</p> <p>The congressional primaries were split from state level primaries in 2012, when the federal MOVE Act mandated that federal elections allow sufficient time for absentee ballots from those in the army and overseas to be collected. The Assembly bill requires the joint primary to happen in June, in order to allow more absentee ballots to trickle in, while the Senate suggests an August date, which would still meet federal regulations. Democrats argue that the August date would suppress voter turnout given peoples’ summer vacations.</p> <p>The only bill designed to expand voter access that has advanced in the Senate is an early voting bill, sponsored by Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, which would allow eligible New Yorkers an additional seven-day window prior to election day to cast their ballots, but it too appears unlikely to reach the Senate floor.</p> <p>Stewart-Cousins’ bill, which mirrors legislation by Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh that has passed the Assembly, would open poll sites for seven days ahead of election day, allowing one day in between the early voting period and elections. Each county, depending on its size, would be required to make at least one and up to seven polling sites available during that period.</p> <p>In March, when Stewart-Cousins forced the Senate election committee to vote on the measure, Democratic members of the committee voted to advance the bill to the Senate floor, only to have it diverted to the local government committee by GOP members. <a href="http://www.politico.com/states/new-york/albany/story/2017/05/01/senate-committee-advances-early-voting-bill-111684" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">As Politico wrote</a>, the majority conference is able to kill legislation without explicitly voting against it by pawning it off to another committee, which is unlikely to meet more than once or twice before the end of session and does not have to calendar a vote.</p> <p><a href="https://www.nysenate.gov/legislation/bills/2017/S3304" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">A bill</a> for automatic voter registration, sponsored by Senator Michael Gianaris, a Democrat from Queens, was defeated after a vote was compelled in the same manner.</p> <p>While Cuomo, a second-term Democrat, unveiled a sweeping electoral reform agenda during his 2017 State of the State, by April, following the passage of the budget, he appeared to have lost any can-do, <a href="http://www.twcnews.com/nys/capital-region/politics/2017/04/28/new-york-democrats-still-trying-to-overhaul-state-voting-laws.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">telling reporters</a>, “There is more to do; there is no political will to do it. Otherwise we would have done it in the budget."</p> <p>This lack of enthusiasm on voting reform is echoed by Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, Republican of Long Island, who, when asked recently by a reporter, noted the fiscal component of early voting. “Early voting is defined so many ways, is it just one day?” he asked rhetorically. “I was just joking around that I’m supportive of early voting, just start 5 o’clock instead of 6. It is a serious subject and something we should be talking about, but how do you do that without costing astronomical amounts of money? Our county boards of election are strapped right now.”</p> <p>While there is still time left in the legislative session, without Cuomo using his influence, movement on the issue in unlikely, according the Blair Horner, executive director of New York Public Interest Group, one of the advocacy organizations lobbying for electoral reform.</p> <p>“Lawmakers don't have to face voters until next year so they are more likely to do popular things on even number years than odd number years. The governor has not shown a lot of leadership on this, so they haven't felt a lot of pressure,” Horner said.</p> <p>De Blasio, no ally of Cuomo, <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/6964-de-blasio-announces-plan-to-push-electoral-reform-in-albany" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">told Gotham Gazette</a> last week that he and unnamed partners intend “to launch a major effort” to see voting and election reforms passed in Albany by the end of the session.<br /><br />Cuomo’s office <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/6964-de-blasio-announces-plan-to-push-electoral-reform-in-albany" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">told Gotham Gazette</a> that the governor continues to support modernizing the state’s electoral laws and will keep pushing for measures to do so despite their lack of movement through the Legislature. A spokesperson did not answer whether the governor would make any public push to see his desired electoral reforms passed.</p> <p>

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by Rachel Silberstein, State government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
<p><img src="https://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/22127912963_5f30becd97_z_3.jpg" alt="Cuomo voting 2015" width="600" height="390" /></p> <p>Gov. Cuomo votes (photo: The Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Governor Andrew Cuomo’s <a href="http://www.politico.com/states/new-york/albany/story/2017/04/cuomo-says-goodbye-to-albany-and-any-ethics-push-for-the-year-111271" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">prediction</a> that there is insufficient political will at the New York State Legislature to pass any significant voting reform measures this year may be coming to fruition.</p> <p>During the final weeks before the end of the legislative session, this year June 21 -- when lawmakers leave the Capitol and return to their districts for the remainder of the year -- there is typically a final thrust for policy measures that did not make it into the budget, which this year was passed in early April.</p> <p>On the electoral front, there has been a growing push from voting reform activists, civil rights organizations, and some Democratic elected officials to modernize New York’s arcane system, but, given the reluctance of Senate Republicans and, at least in part, Cuomo’s lack of prioritization of electoral reform despite saying in January he backs an ambitious agenda, major reforms appear to be elusive.</p> <p>Citing numerous barriers faced by voters during the 2016 elections, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and New York City Bill de Blasio have joined the call for Albany to pass meaningful electoral reform, a cause that has been <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/6908-activists-lawmakers-rally-for-voting-reform-at-capitol" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">championed</a> by other Democrats in the state Assembly majority and Senate minority.</p> <p>Democrats in both legislative houses have introduced a slew of voting reform bills -- including legislation on early voting, automatic voter registration, electronic poll books, and “no excuse” absentee ballots, among other measures -- as they do each year. While most <a href="http://nyassembly.gov/Press/20170515/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">passed</a> the Democrat-controlled Assembly, as usual, the efforts are stalled in the Senate, where Republicans control the chamber by a slim majority given the help of Senator Simcha Felder, a nominal Democrat who conferences with Republicans, and bolstered by the Independent Democratic Conference (IDC) in a coalition agreement.</p> <p>The Senate has passed a significantly slimmer electoral package, most of which would do little to increase voter access or enhance voter registration.</p> <p>So far, the only electoral legislation passed in both houses would allow polling place inspectors to work eight-hour half-shifts, when previously they were made to work 16-hour days. It is a move intended to help Boards of Elections recruit staff and improve efficiency on election days.</p> <p>Another piece of legislation, sponsored by IDC Senator Diane Savino and Assemblymember Amy Paulin in their respective chambers, would require special ballots to be mailed to domestic violence victims and has passed each house’s election committee and is calendared for floor votes.</p> <p>The Assembly election committee <a href="http://nyassembly.gov/leg/?sh=agen2&amp;agenda=2017-06-02-20.51.46.129889&amp;ver=2017-06-02-20.51.46.188449&amp;ano=18&amp;com=Election%20Law" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">is meeting</a> on Tuesday, June 6, to consider a dozen more electoral law changes.</p> <p>Other relatively minor pieces of electoral <a href="https://www.nysenate.gov/legislation/bills/2017/S1567/amendment/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">legislation</a> close to being passed in both houses relate to the way candidates are listed on the ballot, the creation of an inventory of official campaign websites, and protecting the ballot information of domestic violence victims.</p> <p>One sign of the lack of agreement on major electoral reforms, though, relates to consolidating New York’s repetitive primary election days, a cause that has bipartisan support -- in theory. Both the Senate and Assembly have passed bills to consolidate federal and state primary elections -- a move projected to save the state $25 million and help increase voter turnout -- however the houses cannot disagree on which month to hold the joint election.</p> <p>The congressional primaries were split from state level primaries in 2012, when the federal MOVE Act mandated that federal elections allow sufficient time for absentee ballots from those in the army and overseas to be collected. The Assembly bill requires the joint primary to happen in June, in order to allow more absentee ballots to trickle in, while the Senate suggests an August date, which would still meet federal regulations. Democrats argue that the August date would suppress voter turnout given peoples’ summer vacations.</p> <p>The only bill designed to expand voter access that has advanced in the Senate is an early voting bill, sponsored by Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, which would allow eligible New Yorkers an additional seven-day window prior to election day to cast their ballots, but it too appears unlikely to reach the Senate floor.</p> <p>Stewart-Cousins’ bill, which mirrors legislation by Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh that has passed the Assembly, would open poll sites for seven days ahead of election day, allowing one day in between the early voting period and elections. Each county, depending on its size, would be required to make at least one and up to seven polling sites available during that period.</p> <p>In March, when Stewart-Cousins forced the Senate election committee to vote on the measure, Democratic members of the committee voted to advance the bill to the Senate floor, only to have it diverted to the local government committee by GOP members. <a href="http://www.politico.com/states/new-york/albany/story/2017/05/01/senate-committee-advances-early-voting-bill-111684" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">As Politico wrote</a>, the majority conference is able to kill legislation without explicitly voting against it by pawning it off to another committee, which is unlikely to meet more than once or twice before the end of session and does not have to calendar a vote.</p> <p><a href="https://www.nysenate.gov/legislation/bills/2017/S3304" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">A bill</a> for automatic voter registration, sponsored by Senator Michael Gianaris, a Democrat from Queens, was defeated after a vote was compelled in the same manner.</p> <p>While Cuomo, a second-term Democrat, unveiled a sweeping electoral reform agenda during his 2017 State of the State, by April, following the passage of the budget, he appeared to have lost any can-do, <a href="http://www.twcnews.com/nys/capital-region/politics/2017/04/28/new-york-democrats-still-trying-to-overhaul-state-voting-laws.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">telling reporters</a>, “There is more to do; there is no political will to do it. Otherwise we would have done it in the budget."</p> <p>This lack of enthusiasm on voting reform is echoed by Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, Republican of Long Island, who, when asked recently by a reporter, noted the fiscal component of early voting. “Early voting is defined so many ways, is it just one day?” he asked rhetorically. “I was just joking around that I’m supportive of early voting, just start 5 o’clock instead of 6. It is a serious subject and something we should be talking about, but how do you do that without costing astronomical amounts of money? Our county boards of election are strapped right now.”</p> <p>While there is still time left in the legislative session, without Cuomo using his influence, movement on the issue in unlikely, according the Blair Horner, executive director of New York Public Interest Group, one of the advocacy organizations lobbying for electoral reform.</p> <p>“Lawmakers don't have to face voters until next year so they are more likely to do popular things on even number years than odd number years. The governor has not shown a lot of leadership on this, so they haven't felt a lot of pressure,” Horner said.</p> <p>De Blasio, no ally of Cuomo, <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/6964-de-blasio-announces-plan-to-push-electoral-reform-in-albany" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">told Gotham Gazette</a> last week that he and unnamed partners intend “to launch a major effort” to see voting and election reforms passed in Albany by the end of the session.<br /><br />Cuomo’s office <a href="https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/6964-de-blasio-announces-plan-to-push-electoral-reform-in-albany" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">told Gotham Gazette</a> that the governor continues to support modernizing the state’s electoral laws and will keep pushing for measures to do so despite their lack of movement through the Legislature. A spokesperson did not answer whether the governor would make any public push to see his desired electoral reforms passed.</p> <p>

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by Rachel Silberstein, State government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>