Let ‘em vote! State laws outdated

New York State has an enviable reputation as one of the most progressive states in the nation, with a quality of life second to none. There is, however, one noticeable exception to that progressive reputation today and that is due to its outdated voting laws.

While 38 states have approved efforts and laws to expand the ability of their citizens to vote, New York remains mired in laws largely based in 19th Century patronage politics which were designed to deter voting, not encourage it.

Now, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, as part of his 2017 State of the State, has recommended a series of changes intended to make more convenient voter registration and improved access for New York citizens to vote. If implemented, New York will join the other 38 states who are already leading the way to expanding voting opportunity. It’s time we catch up.

The Governor proposed the following:

∫ Up to 12 days of real early voting. Not the convoluted absentee ballot system the state now has.

∫ No-excuse absentee balloting. If you ask for an absentee ballot, you are given one. No questions will be asked of you and no reasons will need to be given by you for why you are requesting an absentee ballot.

∫ Same-day voter registration and same-day voting.

∫ Automatic voter registration when you get or renew your NYS driver license.

All these proposed changes have been successfully implemented in 38 states, without evidence of voter fraud.

These proposed reforms should be accompanied by two more changes, in my opinion:

∫ Automatic voter registration at age of 18.

∫ Saturday/Weekend voting.

There is simply no rationale today to continue to limit voting to only on Tuesday. The day originally selected years ago when the only polling place was the county seat and the many farmers and rural folk had to travel by horse- drawn carriage or walk.

These proposals and changes would, hopefully, increase the number of eligible citizens who register to vote well past the current 50% average. Also, they would likely increase the registered voter participation in local elections to well beyond the current 20% average. Both of the stated averages are well below those of the other 38 states who have made voting more convenient. New York state needs to catch up to those other “more progressive” states by immediately implementing the voter reforms outlined to make it easier in New York to register and to participate in electing our local, state, and national government representatives.

Let ‘Em Vote!

Jerry Ryan is the secretary of the Fulton County Democratic Committee, which has endorsed the Governor’s proposal.

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