Voting Rights in NY State need Reform

By Max Plesset MD.

NEED FOR NEW YORK STATE ELECTORAL REFORM

  • Decreasing voter participation — only 19.7% turnout in 2016 presidential primary — second lowest in the country
  • NYS has one of the lowest overall turnouts nationwide for all elections —46th in voter turnout
  • NYS has one of the highest percentages of unregistered voters — somewhere between 4 – 5 million out of 15.5 million eligible voters

BARRIERS TO INCREASING VOTER PARTICIPATION

  • One must register to vote at least 25 days before the next election
  • No in-person early voting in NYS — one of only 13 states without it
  • Limited places to register to vote
  • No opt-out automatic voter registration (AVR) —6 states already have it
  • Only online registration is on DMV site — excludes many New York City voters who don’t have cars
  • Absence of a “no excuse” option on absentee balloting form
  • Paper registration forms contain many entry errors and are recorded improperly
  • Long lines at polling places
  • Voter fatigue due to multiple separate elections (primaries, state and local)
  • Interesting facts: many who want to register as Independents mistakenly register for the Independence Party. As many as 80% in one poll. NYS is the only state in US that requires a change in party registration at least 1 year prior to a general election.
  • Required documentation for a driver license: SSN, birth certificate, Department of Homeland Security naturalization document, previous NYS Driver License with less than 2 years lapse

“VOTER EMPOWERMENT ACT” IS ALREADY IN COMMITTEES

  • Early voting
  • Automatic voter registration with opt-out
  • Same-day voter registration
  • Expansion of state agencies for registration — social service agencies, SUNY,CUNY,Public Housing Authorities,Departments of Corrections, Division of Military Affairs and others.
  • Lower voter age to 16 — many already have a driver license and pay taxes
  • Allowing felons to vote after prison release instead of after parole
  • Open primaries — 3 million out of 10.7 million active voters have no Democratic or Republican Party registration — they can’t vote in primaries
  • Ballot improvement — many ballots are discarded due to entry errors
  • Consolidating elections to reduce voter fatigue

GOVERNOR CUOMO HAS PROPOSED TO MODERNIZE VOTING IN HIS 2017 STATE OF THE STATE MESSAGE

  • Early voting
  • Automatic voter registration with opt-out (AVR)
  • Same-day voter registration
  • Streamlined registration process to decrease errors on paper forms
  • (No Excuse Absentee Ballot is not one of the proposed actions)

CONCLUSIONS

  • Early voting and AVR can be accomplished through Legislative action. Legislative electoral reform has repeatedly failed, due to a highly politicized legislature. NYS Senate Republicans regularly stymie bills involving AVR and early voting
  • Changing the voter registration process to same-day registration may require an amendment to the Constitution.
  • A No Excuse Absentee Ballot does require amendments to the NYS Constitution which is a long and difficult process
  • Turning Republican Senate seats to Democratic Senate seats would improve the likelihood of electoral reform. Incidentally, out of 32 current Democratic Senate seats 9 are in the Independent Democratic Conference that usually votes with the 31 Republicans.

CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION

  • Last held in 1967
  • Every 20 years it must be on the ballot for a vote stating — “Shall there be a convention to revise the Constitution and amend the same” — it will be on the ballot this Nov. 7, 2017
  • If approved, there is a ballot vote for delegates in Nov. 2018
  • A vote to accept or reject amendments would occur in Nov. 2019
  • Multiple topics can be included for amendment consideration — legislative apportionment, issues of governance and judiciary, election law and ethics, reproductive choice (not currently in the NYS Constitution), etc.
  • Only 2 electoral reform issues are noted in Article ll of the NYS Constitution. The 2 are Absentee Voting Only with an Excuse and the Deadline for Registration which is being debated.

BOTTOM LINE

  • ConCon (Constitutional Convention) process is lengthy, cumbersome and costly — approximately 300 million dollars
  • The legislative process, which is also difficult, may give us more hope for electoral reform

 

LINKS FOR MORE INFORMATION

http://on.ny.gov/2jrgOC2

http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/6295-there-is-a-long-list-of-voting-reforms-new-york-can-pass

http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/6724-cuomo-embraces-voting-reform-agenda-but-implementation-poses-challenges

http://lwvny.org/programs-studies/concon/2016/Powerpoint-Presentation-on-Constitutional-Convention.pdf

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About D. Posnett MD

Emeritus Prof. of Medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College
This entry was posted in NYS legislature, Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Voting Rights in NY State need Reform

  1. 971romeo says:

    Very well done. Thanks for this!

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