Election Reform

Because of New York’s inefficient and outdated voting systems, many New Yorkers are discouraged and question whether their vote will be accurately counted. The NY Election Administration has not kept up with modern improvements to New York State’s election systems or voter technology to adapt to the large populations of voters and the inefficiencies that follow, like long lines, unorganized management, and the rigidity of polling places and voting times. Common Cause New York advocates for New York State to modernize its voting practices, including improvements such as:

  • Create electronic poll books: When polling places implement electronic poll books, voting becomes a faster, more efficient, and more accurate process. Instead of checking in on paper and searching through countless pages to double-check the information provided, a voter checks in on an electronic tablet or laptop to sign in in seconds. Electronic poll books save time, labor, and money on Election Day.

  • Establish early voting: When there is only one day a year to vote in a General Election and that day is a Tuesday, many eligible voters are unable to vote because of work, caretaking, travel, and other commitments. By instituting early voting, more citizens will have the opportunity cast their ballot. Early voting can be mail-in or in-person.

  • Automatic Voter Registration: A new voting reform is sweeping the nation called Automatic Voter Registration (AVR). California, Oregon, Vermont, Connecticut and West Virginia have all passed variations of AVR to bring more people into the voting process. Just this past November, Alaska’s voters passed a ballot measure setting up AVR for its citizens.  The time is right for such a reform, as our voter turnout rates are the lowest in the U.S. since World War II. AVR will help clean our voting rolls through a streamlined process by which government agencies will share information to ensure accuracy while making the process of voter registration less confusing and intimidating to voters. AVR would also make the management of voter records and registering eligible voters much easier for election administrators.

  • Expanded absentee voting: In New York, a citizen must have a clearly defined reason to cast an absentee ballot. With more relaxed standards, more New Yorkers will be able to cast their vote on Election Day, whether they are working, taking care of someone, out of town, or physically unable to make it to a polling place.  Common Cause/NY favors a constitutional amendment to establish no-fault absentee voting.

  • Early registration for 16 and 17 year-olds: As teenagers turn 18 years old, many forget to register to vote in time for that year’s election. With 16 and 17 year-old  voter pre-registration, these teenagers will be registered in advance. Many states allow teenagers to register at the Department of Motor Vehicles when they receive their driver’s license. When the time comes to vote as an adult, they are ready to go and can fully participate in the election. This practice encourages voting amongst young people, a group that consistently votes less frequently than the generations before them.

  • Voting for those on parole: If you are a convicted of a crime, have served your prison sentence, and are on parole, in New York State you are not eligible to vote. This practice prevents many citizens from voting every year, despite the fact that they have completed their sentence.

  • Split shifts for poll workers: Poll workers are expected to work from the early hours of the morning to when the polls close after 9pm. By allowing poll workers to work split shifts, which means half or part of a day instead of the full day, more people can sign up to be poll workers. More poll workers means a more efficient polling place and that every voter will have the assistance they need.

  • Statewide school holiday for Election Day: Without school, many adults can go to the polling places when they would ordinarily be driving their kids to school or getting their kids ready for school. Additionally, teachers, school staff, and administrators would not only have a wider window to vote, but can also volunteer at polling places, which are often already at schools. Having polling places at schools poses a potential security threat for the students, so having the day off is beneficial for both the students and the teachers who worry about their safety.

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