Assembly’s electoral reforms will strengthen NY voting process

January 9, 2013 By Assemblyman Alec Brook-Krasny From Assemblyman Brook-Krasny's office
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In a democracy like ours, every person’s voice and vote counts. As a state Assembly member, it’s my duty to ensure that as many citizens as possible have the opportunity to be part of the electoral process, and that voters know where political messages – and the money behind them – come from.

It is for these reasons that I am putting my full support behind two new pieces of legislation that will strengthen our democracy. The first measure would bring early voting to our state while simultaneously increasing voter participation to ensure that as many voices as possible are heard. The second piece of legislation would require that more independent expenditures that influence elections be subject to financial campaign disclosure rules, helping ensure that voters know where the money behind the message is coming from.

Recently, experts estimated that voter participation in New York State on Election Day 2012 was less than 46 percent. In an effort to increase voter participation, I’ll be pushing for the passage of a bill that would create early voting in all general, primary and special elections in New York state (A.689).

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If enacted, New York would join 32 other states and the District of Columbia in permitting an alternative to in-person voting on election days. Under the legislation, voters would be permitted to vote at designated locations beginning 14 days prior to general elections and 7 days prior to primary or special elections. Each county board of elections and the Board of Elections of the City of New York would be required to designate at least five polling places for voters to cast an early ballot.

Polls would be open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. each day during the early voting period, including Saturdays and Sundays, and ballots cast during the early voting period would be counted at the close of the polls on Election Day and included in the election-night tally.

Early voting would mean fewer people waiting in long lines on Election Day, decrease the need for absentee ballots and allow people with disabilities and those with non-traditional work schedules easier access to voting.

Currently, large corporations, billionaires and special-interest groups are allowed to spend unlimited money on political campaigns as long as they define themselves as “issue advocates” and avoid the use of certain words. This loophole leaves voters in the dark about who is behind messages and ads they see and where the money funding them comes from.

Our voters deserve better, which is why I’m also supporting a bill that would ensure that entities engaged in what amounts to express advocacy of candidates are subject to the same registration and disclosure provisions that are now required of candidates and their campaigns (A.690).

These “independent expenditures” distort campaigns, and their secrecy makes it difficult for voters to discern their true intentions. We should strive to increase openness and accountability in our state’s electoral system, which this legislation would do.

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