On April 22, 2015, the second annual "Vote Better NY" Advocacy Day for Election Reform organized by NYC Votes, a non-partisan voter engagement initiative run by the New York City Campaign Finance Board (CFB) and its Voter Assistance Advisory Committee.
The delegation, of about 100 students, volunteers, and good government activists, left the New York City at 6 a.m. with the carefully defined objective of pushing state Senators and Assembly members on three voting issues: online voter registration, better ballot design, and early voting.
Splitting into groups of five or six, activists worked the halls of the Capitol and the legislative office building, participating in back-to-back pre-arranged meetings with legislative staff or legislators themselves.
The numbers in yesterday's delegation are an indicator of an increasing consciousness among New Yorkers that reforming the voting process is necessary, particularly considering that New York hit the historically low point of 28.8 percent voter turnout in the 2014 gubernatorial election.
At the end of the day, NYC Votes had made its mark. The delegation was recognized both in the Assembly and Senate sessions for its work in promoting voting reform. "We do know the politics still plays after we leave their four walls," Onida Coward Mayers said with cautious optimism. "I'm very proud of the message that we sent that we will be heard," she said. "There needs to be election reform, citizens matter and citizens want change. New Yorkers want an easier, friendly, 21st century democracy."
2015 agenda focuses on broad, common sense reforms:
Online Voter Registration: We have a pen-and-paper voter registration system that is stuck in the 19th century. It’s time we bring voter registration into the 21st century. We do so many things online, from banking to paying bills to buying our groceries. Registering to vote should be no different. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), 21 states currently offer online voter registration. (Bills: A05564/S00859)
MHD: I would be against any bill that did not start with first having your picture taken and citizenship checked at the DMV.
Better Ballot Design: Poor ballot design not only frustrates voters and causes problems on the day of an election, it’s the reason why thousands of votes are “lost or miscast” during every election cycle. In New York, specifically, the 2010 elections saw thousands of votes invalidated because of ‘over votes’ or the incorrect selection of multiple candidates. (Bills: A03389; A05622/S02154)
MHD: The current optical voting system catches over-voters. So the voter would have to accept the error, that would then invalidate their ballot.
Early Voting: New York is one of just 15 states that does not allow voters to cast a ballot prior to Election Day without providing an excuse. In 2012, nearly one-third of U.S. voters opted to cast their ballots prior to Election Day. Advantages include avoiding long lines at the polls, and the flexibility of voting on the weekend.
Pre-registration of 16 and 17 Year Olds: The NCSL lists 22 states that allow teens to register to vote prior to turning 18 and automatically adds them to the voter rolls on their 18th birthday. Pre-registration is a practical, proactive way to encourage participation and turnout among the youngest voters.
Vote by Mail: The desire for convenience permeates every facet of our modern-day lives and the act of voting should be no different. Mail-in voting allows voters to cast their ballot from the comfort of their own home, ensuring they have ample time to review their choices and make an informed decision. Colorado, Oregon and Washington have all converted to universal vote-by-mail systems. During the 2014 mid-term elections, voter turnout in those states exceeded the national average.
MHD: This is were voter ID fraud can take place. For this type of voting to work, there has to be a to generate a unique code to be used to identify the voter with the received mail ballot, but a separate way to deliver the code and the mail ballot.
Compulsory Voting: While many Americans are passing up their right to vote, some countries don’t give their citizens that option. Australia and 13 other countries have compulsory voting laws. Since 1924, Australians have been mandated to “mark a ballot” in federal elections. Those who do not comply are subject to a small fine. Australia boasts a 95 percent voter participation rate. In Brazil, when you turn 65, voting becomes optional.
NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker Technorati Tag in Del.icio.us