For those who missed the message of the 2016 election, ensuing events have been loud reinforcement: People are fed up with government, want change and, increasingly, want to be part of that change.
That means getting involved in elections — as voters or as candidates. In New York, though, it’s not as easy as it should be to cast a vote or to get on a ballot. That’s wrong.
New York needs voting reforms now.
There are many good ideas before the State Legislature, representing consistent principles and worthy of support.
- Voting hours should be extended to include a few days, perhaps the weekend before Election Day, to give those with scheduling issues the opportunity to cast ballots.
- Absentee ballots should be readily available, and the need to state a reason should be eliminated. “No-excuse” absentee ballots are the standard in many states.
- Those who do business with state agencies should be automatically registered, and verified by local election boards, to expand the pool of voters.
- Deadlines for registering and changing party enrollment should be moved closer to Election Day to avoid the 2016 presidential primary fiasco that sidelined too many.
- Party primaries should be held on one day. Multiple dates for state, federal and, if necessary, presidential primaries is confusing, depresses turnout and is costly.
- Ballots must be easier to read with larger and clear fonts.
Reforms shouldn’t stop there. To have spirited elections offering real choices, it must be easier for candidates to get on ballots. That means loosening laws that let parties and bosses control access. It means banning cross-endorsements, which let one candidate grab multiple party lines.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo included voting reforms in his proposed budget, but dropped them in negotiations with the legislature. That’s disappointing. Speaker Carl Heastie and the Assembly have been supportive, but the Senate has not. If lawmakers fail to approve changes, and if Cuomo fails to push for them, the re-energized public can get it done — by voting in November for a constitutional convention.
Power to the people from the people would be a powerful message no one would miss.