New York Reform Measures Ignore Real Problems with State Elections
Mass voter confusion. Voter purges. Registration problems. These were all major problems associated with the 2016 New York presidential primary. State lawmakers have an opportunity to fix these issues, but are they? Are they listening to voters' complaints?
It doesn't look like it.
The New York State Senate passed a series of primary and election reform bills this week that the chamber says will "increase voter participation." One of the bills consolidates congressional and state primary dates to one primary election in August.According to the State Senate, consolidating the primaries will save "taxpayers at least $25 million and the state into compliance with federal election requirements for overseas balloting."
“Having the right to vote and having access to vote are very different, and we want to make sure that everyone who has the right to vote has the capability and access to vote as well. These reforms not only cut costs to save taxpayers money, they ensure that our men and women serving in the military have their vote counted,” stated bill sponsor Fred Akshar.
New York currently uses a closed primary system for both presidential and non-presidential primary elections. This means that only registered party members can participate in their respective party's primary election.
Registered independent voters cannot participate unless they re-register with the Republican or Democratic Party. However, as taxpayers, they still contribute to the cost of these elections.
The bill reportedly saves taxpayers $25 million, but many of these taxpayers are still paying for a primary election they cannot vote in -- an issue that proved to be a big problem in the 2016 primary elections.
Other election measures passed include a bill that splits election workdays at polling locations. The final bill touted by the State Senate shares candidate websites on the Board of Elections' website.
None of these reforms, however, address another major issue voters encountered in 2016: registration deadlines. Registered independent voters had to re-register with a party 6 months before the 2016 primary.
New York has the earliest deadline of any closed primary state to change party affiliation ahead of a primary. The different rules for new and existing voters caused mass confusion during the presidential primary.
One Bloomberg author commented that New York's voter registration deadlines alone show that "no state does a better job discouraging voters from going to the polls than New York."
Agree or disagree, it does raise an important point that the national dialogue on what constitutes voter suppression isn't nuanced enough and doesn't even take a look at these laws.
Now, there is a bill that advocates for same-day voter registration in the New York State Assembly, the New York Votes Act. However, it only applies to new voters. It was introduced by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman in early February, and no further action has been taken since it was referred to committee.
So, are New York lawmakers really passing election reforms that encourage voter participation and put voters first? What do you think?