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New York's Primary Election shows how much work needs to be done


NEW YORK, N.Y. -- As yesterday's primary election showed, yet again, the need for voting reform is ever present. Common Cause New York, along with the Let NY Vote coalition, is advocating for common sense reforms to our voting system that ensure all New Yorkers have equal access to the ballot box. 

"New York State has managed to pull its state primary turnout rate from horrible to merely bad -- in some districts the turnout percentage was as high or higher than the 2016 presidential primary. Let NY Vote and its allies have shown that turn out efforts can really pay off, particularly when voters have dynamic candidates and truly competitive races on the ballot. However, New York still has a way to go -- a majority of eligible voters did not vote. The reforms Common Cause/NY and Let NY Vote advocate for - like automatic voter registration and early voting - are still badly needed in New York. It's time for all candidates for election in November to get behind real voting reform," said Susan Lerner, Executive Director of Common Cause/NY.

For the New Yorkers who were lucky enough to know the primary had moved from Tuesday, September 11th to Thursday, September 13th, they were nonetheless confronted with a range of problems throughout the day. Eligible voters from around the state arrived at their polling location only to find:
  • They were not on the voter rolls at their polling place. These New Yorkers had no choice but to sign an affidavit confirming their identity and vote via provisional ballot.
  • Their party affiliation had been changed. Some New Yorkers reported being unenrolled from their previously affiliated political party. Due to New York's closed primary system, they were unable to vote.
  • Their Election District didn't have pollbooks. In at least two NYC Election Districts, voters were told that the poll book hadn't been delivered. Some voters were told they should come back that evening or else wait on a 45 minute line to cast an affidavit ballot. Many voters simply left because they couldn't wait that long before work.
  • Lack of information on judicial candidates. Little attention is paid to judicial races in New York State -- voters typically have scant information to go by when casting their ballot.
  • Upstate polls open at 12pm. While the polls in New York City, and a handful of nearby counties, opened at 6 a.m., upstate polling locations do not open until 12 p.m. Upstate voters expressed frustration at the shorter polling hours.
  • Party registration deadline. The deadline to change party registration is almost a year before the election. Many voters expressed confusion after being able unable to vote due to not having met the change in party affiliation deadline of October 13, 2017 for this year's cycle.
These systemic problems only highlight the need for:
  • Consolidated federal and state primary election date
New York is the only state that had separate dates for the federal and state primary. This creates confusion, suppresses turnout and is a waste of taxpayer dollars.
  • Uniform polling hours
A New Yorker's zip code should not determine how many hours they have to participate in our democracy. Voters deserve equal access to the polls.
  • No-Excuse Absentee Voting
No-excuse absentee voting would allow New Yorkers to vote absentee, no reason required.
  • Early Voting
Would allow New Yorkers more than a single day to cast their ballot. Early voting would ease pressure on poll sites and workers, reduce errors and improve the voter experience.
  • The ability to change party affiliation closer to the election.
In order to vote in yesterday's closed primary, New Yorkers needed to have changed their party affiliation in October 14, 2017 almost a year ago. Flexibility is necessary to give voters time to make an informed decision.? In a state with perpetual low voter turnout-particularly in primaries-the unreasonable deadline increases voter cynicism and alienation. Fears of "party-raiding" are over-blown and can be obviated by permitting voters who are not previously enrolled in a party to enroll in a party by the deadline for new registrants while requiring a somewhat longer deadline for changing party enrollment.
  • Electronic pollbooks
Missing poll books, missing pages or printing errors aren't a problem with electronic poll books. It's also faster and easier to look up voters' names electronically.
  • Judicial candidates
Common Cause/NY is working on providing voters with more meaningful information about judicial candidates.

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