POINT OF VIEW

We can really fix a lot of problems with one con

Posted

The time has come to build a political system that is fair and open to all. Accomplishing this goals means reforming our voting and electoral systems.

With a New York state constitutional convention, we could ensure expanded access to one of the most critical parts of our civic life — voting.

When we think of elections, we believe that they must be fair. The truth is, often they are not. From an over 90 percent incumbency re-election rate to party bosses choosing candidates, our present system in New York is far from functional.

Elections should be impartial, neutral and equitable, minimizing partisan and financial interests. Term limits would eliminate the ability of incumbents to amass power over several decades, thus reducing the effects of special interests, and would promote greater diversity of our representatives.

Voting should be accessible, easy, consequential and expected. New York does not have early voting. We must vote in person, and only on Election Day. 

The state constitution forbids Election Day registration. Instead, a voter must register before the election if they wish to participate. In the case of primary elections in 2018, voters must be registered with the party of their choice, nearly a year ahead of time, to participate at all stages of the process.

New York could increase voter participation and raise voter turnout by instituting early voting, Election Day voter registration, no-excuse absentee voting, instant runoff voting, and pre-registration of 16- and 17-year-olds.

We could bring to New York a redesigned and simplified ballot for 21st century voting, and institute electronic poll books. To bring fair elections, we could eliminate the bipartisan structure of the Board of Elections, putting in place a professional, nonpartisan election administration. 

Are you as frustrated as we are about the process in running for office? We could reduce signature requirements and simplify the petition process for candidates. Further, instead of having candidates chosen by party bosses, we could reform how vacant seats are filled to both eliminate delay, and to increase voter choice.

Our state Board of Elections abolished campaign finance caps. What this means is that, currently, individuals can give unlimited amounts of money through limited liability companies. Afraid of big money infecting the process of governance and policy? We are already there.

These reforms must happen at the constitutional level. New Yorkers cannot initiate this process other than through a constitutional convention. Without a convention, several of these efforts could have been passed, but the legislature has been stalling and ignoring all of these issues for years. Bills have been waiting decades to be voted on.

And New Yorkers have been waiting decades for a modern New York state constitution. We cannot afford to wait any longer. The time is now for us to vote “yes” on the Nov. 7 ballot referendum to hold a New York state constitutional convention, and write the next chapter of New York history.

The author is communications and marketing manager for Citizens Union, a political advocacy group that supports the constitutional convention measure on Tuesday’s ballot.

Priscilla Grim,

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