State budget should include voting reform measures

To the Editor:

Expanding the right to vote here in New York State has become a hot issue in the weeks coming up to the 2018 legislative session. Governor Andrew Cuomo himself has acknowledged the necessity to expand the voter franchise.

The broadly based coalition of organizations called LetNYVote is out in front, informing New Yorkers on how to make more voices heard in the legislative chambers.

A call to my New York State Assembly district representative, Pat Fahy of the 109th, confirmed that Ms. Fahy most definitely wants to increase voter representation. Indeed, she will be a guest speaker at the LetNYVote rally next Tuesday, Jan. 23, at the State Capitol.

Calls to my senator, George Amedore of the 46th District, yielded no confirmation of his position on early voting. I called the Albany, Kingston, and Fonda offices and was invited to speak to an answering machine.

It is common knowledge among voters who don’t vote that the system is stacked against them. With one-day voting and restrictive absentee ballot allowances, thousands of would-be voters skip the trip to the polls because they simply can’t get there in time.

Construction workers, for example, often work 12-hour days and may have traveled long distances to their jobs. Child-care responsibilities may await them immediately on return home.

The same for nursing staff in many facilities. Residents of a district who have to fly on assignment simply are not at home on voting day and may have not known weeks ahead of time in order to secure absentee ballot.

Some populations seek help getting to the polls and this help may not be available on Election Day.

Primary voting in New York State in 2016 showed only a 29-percent voter turnout. Perhaps that is because a person has to register with a particular party or change party affiliation, if so desired, six months before the primary, before any candidates were even chosen. This provision disenfranchised up to three million voters.

There are solutions and these measures are on the table. The governor and the Senate and Assembly need to take them seriously.

Automatic Voter Registration not only increases the reliability and security of voting rolls, it reduces human error and chances of fraud, and promotes voter turnout. AVR can be connected to the Department of Motor Vehicles and other state agencies, for starters.

Early voting is known in other states to increase voter turnout. Early voting reduces long lines at the polls; improves poll-worker performance; and ultimately saves time and money, reducing errors linked to stress and too-long poll-worker hours on Election Day.

Another solution to expand the voting electorate is to simply reduce the amount of time necessary to register or change party affiliation from the current six months to a more sane, practicable, and voter-friendly period.  

In this year of heightened federal demands straining the New York State budget, legislators may want to pass by these voting reforms. There is no room for that in the budget.

Bringing in more people brings more energy, more belief in the system, more investment of self to the greater good. A Greater New York shows up at the polls because they have a greater reason to believe anew in the system. They can make their voices heard. The proposed budget must include these reform measures.

For anyone wanting to show up next Tuesday at the State Capitol to support greater voting representation, go to LetNYVote.org and learn more.

Betty Head

Altamont

More Letters to the Editor