The League of Women Voters of Putnam County spent the summer and fall working to educate voters on the November ballot measure that called for a state constitutional convention. We held educational forums, passed out brochures on the history and process of conventions, and encouraged voters to be open to both sides of the debate.
We were pleased so many voters turned over their ballots to vote on the convention question, but disheartened to see how many opposed holding a convention that could have resulted in much-needed ethics and voting reforms.
State legislative leaders, including the governor, opposed holding a convention. Legislators have reasoned that ethics and voting reforms are possible without calling a convention. Although true, they have been slow to move these reforms. New York State continues to rank among the worst states in the nation in voter turnout and participation. According to the group Nonprofit VOTE, we ranked 41st in the country in the 2016 election. That is shocking news in a place whose proud moniker is “the Empire State.”
Now that the convention measure has failed, we should all be calling on both houses of the Legislature and the governor to put their words into actions and pass voting reform. Tell your state Assembly member, senator and the governor to bring our election procedures into the 21st century.
Eileen Reilly, Putnam Valley
Reilly is president of the League of Women Voters of Putnam County.
Our state has a voting problem. In the 2016 election, only 56 percent of eligible voters went to the polls. Our democracy thrives when all are able to engage in the election process. This means ensuring people’s ability to vote.
New York State is one of only 13 states that does not offer early voting. Early voting allows flexibility for voters to vote when they are able to, while juggling work and familial obligations, rather than struggling to find time to vote only on Election Day, or being prevented from voting altogether. Similarly, automatic voter registration, done through the Department of Motor Vehicles, streamlines the registration process. Same-day registration allows eligible voters to vote even if they did not have an opportunity to register before Election Day.
In order to apply for an absentee ballot in New York state, a voter must provide a reason for the absence or inability to make it to the polls. New York should join the majority of states and not require an excuse. Such policies do not protect our elections, or enhance the voting experience, but serve only as a deterrent and invasion of privacy.
When I polled my constituents, early voting and automatic voter registration had the support of nearly 70 percent of them. Same-day registration received support from 56 percent. This session I will continue my support of, and advocacy for, legislation that ensures that New York lives up to its promise and makes voting a right and not a privilege. The laws of the state should never be the reason an eligible person does not vote in our elections.
Sandy Galef, Albany
Galef represents Philipstown in the state Assembly.