New York voters are not likely to get a win in the current state legislative session. That is, at least, the prediction of an article published in the Gotham Gazette Monday. (Thanks to Ballot Access News’ Richard Winger for the link).
The legislative session ends on June 21, yet the only legislation passed by both chambers that even remotely deals with election reform is a bill that allows poll workers to work 8-hour, half-day shifts.
That is good news for poll workers, but it does nothing to better enfranchise voters.
There is not a single bill in the current session that addresses the biggest problems voters faced in the 2016 primary elections:
- Over 3 million independent voters could not vote in the primary unless they registered with a political party.
- However, independent voters had to re-register with a party 6 months before the election. New York has the strictest deadlines to change party affiliation of all closed primary states.
- Many voters had no idea, and missed the deadline, including some of Donald Trump’s own kids.
- Several voters reported that they were dropped from the voter rolls or their party affiliation was switched without their knowledge or consent.
The legislature is not trying to fix any of these problems.
The State Senate approved a bill that would consolidate congressional and state primary elections to one August date. The Senate estimates that it will save taxpayers $25 million, but how does this promote greater voter participation? How does it enfranchise more voters?
According to the Gotham Gazette article, the Assembly’s elections committee will consider a dozen election reform bills Tuesday, but they are all relatively small changes and do nothing to address the above concerns.
This session will end without anything substantive passing.
The nonpartisan organization Open Primaries (which is one of the biggest organizations pushing open primary reform in the country) is currently running an online petition, calling on state lawmakers to implement open primary elections in New York.
“We simply can’t make real progress on election reform without addressing the greatest form of voter suppression in the state — closed primaries,” the petition states.
“Independents voters are the second biggest voting bloc in New York, outnumbering Republicans by half a million; they are also the fastest-growing voting bloc. This system is no longer sustainable.”
“It’s clear that something needs to change in New York. Elected officials continue to tout efforts at passing reforms that only benefit the parties, while ignoring the real issue of closed primaries,” said Jesse Shayne, Digital Director for Open Primaries.
Open primary reform could not pass in the current session, given how little time is left. However, the organization is hoping to build momentum for election reform in the Empire State.