Activists call for state to fund early voting
by Benjamin Fang
Mar 06, 2019 | 5815 views | 0 0 comments | 226 226 recommendations | email to a friend | print
With the state budget due on April 1, a coalition of good government groups and community organizations is calling for changes to make voting easier.

On Friday, State Senator Jessica Ramos joined members of the Let NY Vote coalition, including Common Cause, Chhaya CDC and the New York Civil Liberties Union, to urge Governor Andrew Cuomo to include funding for early voting in the budget.

“There’s a reason why the State Senate made voter reform our very first signature package of legislation,” Ramos said.

Along with early voting and same-day registration, lawmakers passed electronic poll books, all reforms that advocates say will make a difference.

Susan Lerner, executive director of Common Cause New York, said it was “very disappointing” that the governor did not include funding for early voting in his executive budget.

She called on the Assembly and State Senate, both of which passed election reforms, to include it in their one-house budgets.

“Democracy needs participation,” Lerner said.

According to Ramos, many of her Jackson Heights neighbors encountered issues with their names not listed in poll books during last Tuesdays’ public advocate special election. One woman was “turned away” at PS 149.

Luckily, Ramos said, the neighbor was a “triple-prime voter” who knew to call the Board of Elections and vote by affidavit.

“Of course, not everybody is aware of what you should do if you encounter issues in voting,” Ramos said. “We want to make the process easier.”

At the same event, the coalition also denounced lowering the lobbying registration threshold from $5,000 to $500, which they called the “activist tax.”

Jagpreet Singh, lead organizer for the housing group Chhaya, said community organizations don’t necessarily have the resources to comply with lobbying disclosure reporting.

One day of lobbying for these groups, which could involve sending a bus up to Albany, buying snacks or sending postcards, already cost upwards of $500.

“But to hire a person to do seven filings annually that involve tracking and reporting compensation, hours spent lobbying, persons lobbied, bills, executive orders and so on is burdensome to our communities,” Singh said.

“The ‘activist tax’ makes absolutely no sense,” Lerner added. “We really want to see it removed.”

When asked why the governor would propose this, Ramos responded that Cuomo saw not only the activism invoked by Amazon, but also the activation of voters in the last state election.

“Our neighbors are more engaged in politics than ever before,” she said. “That can be something that is very dangerous to elected officials who don’t like to spend time with the average citizen.

“We’re talking about a governor who’s never held a town hall,” Ramos added. “We’re talking about a governor who rarely walks the streets of New York.”
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