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Eliot Spitzer Calls For Major Election Reforms

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Eliot Spitzer is calling for major reforms to fix the election system in the state. The attorney general's proposals come after a his three-month study of how New Yorkers vote. NY1 Albany reporter Davidson Goldin has more in the following report.

Attorney General Eliot Spitzer's proposals aim to encourage voting and ensure elections run smoothly. He would have the state: allow same-day voter registration and move primary day from September to June.

He's also got his eye on improving the voting process, especially with the citywide election looming in the fall.

"We will have, everybody presumes, more hotly contested primaries with the likelihood of recounts and a likelihood that for days - if not weeks - after Election Day there will be some uncertainty," said Spitzer.

The city's new term limit law means a record number of candidates, especially for the City Council, where 35 of 51 members are being forced out office.

Spitzer says the September primaries could spawn recount battles which could drag on dangerously close to the general election in November. His aides say there are ways to help the city's 25,000 poll workers do a better job, starting with better pay.

"Improving communication and training, improving the way custodians are trained and more staffing all involve greater resources that the City Council and mayor have to bring on board," said Mindy Bockstein, Spitzer's policy director.

The total cost, somewhere in the millions of dollars, isn't clear.

Spitzer also wants to replace the state's decades-old voting machines with ATM-like machines or Internet voting. He says the state and federal government should split that cost, which could add up to more than $$200 million.

The City Board of Elections didn't return calls for comment, and Mayor Rudolph Giuliani's press secretary says the state will have to foot the bill for any meaningful changes.

Spitzer is no stranger to close races: he won by just 25,000 votes in 1998 in a race that wasn't decided for several weeks. And after an analysis of voting across the state - triggered by the Florida election debacle - Spitzer is calling for sweeping changes in how New Yorkers vote.

Citing John McCain's fight to get on the ballot in last year's New York primary, Spitzer is calling on the state to make it easier for candidates to run.

"What we're trying to do is present voters with options, not generate business for election lawyers and courthouses," said the attorney general.

Spitzer is also pushing for a statewide standard for counting paper ballots.

Governor George Pataki and leaders of the state legislature have both expressed interest in election reform, but it's not likely much will happen before the city elections this fall.

- Davidson Goldin
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