They hardly deserve a standing ovation -- but Governor Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio should at least get to hear the sound of one hand clapping for pushing for reforms that would make it easier for millions of New Yorkers to cast their ballots. Unfortunately, the devil is lurking in the details and, for now, the details of both of their plans aren’t quite angelic.
The governor yesterday proposed funding an initiative for early voting in at least one polling site in every county across the state. While it’s a small step, it would be a significant one for New York, allowing us to join 37 other states in casting our ballots before an official election day. The stumbling block may be the Republican-led State Senate which has shown little interest in driving up voter turnout in a state where GOP enrollment is dipping compared to the Democrats. It’s up to the governor to pound away at the issue – and pressure the splintered Democratic Senators to unite behind early voting.
And speaking of splintered, it’s high time that the state’s Congressional primaries and legislative primaries be held on the same day – rather than having one primary in June and another in September. Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie sounds ready to move the September primary away from the anniversary of 9/11 and to September 13th – a Thursday. If you really want to encourage voter participation and not just give it lip service, you’d pick one day for everyone to vote in a primary, rather than two. This could be another issue for both the governor and the mayor to embrace if they want to see voting increase.
And while Mayor de Blasio is promising to promote voter participation as a centerpiece of his State of the City address tonight, he also is coming up with an odd proposal to amend the city’s charter to change contribution limits set by the city’s Campaign Finance Board.
City Council Speaker Corey Johnson took to Twitter last night, noting that the Council has typically worked at setting the limits with the board, adding: “Why do we need a commission to do that?”
It’s a fair question but let’s give the mayor and the governor some credit for finally addressing the pitiful turnout surrounding New York’s elections -- and trying to come up with some answers.