Election Reform is nothing new. The State of New York ratified the U.S. Constitution in 1788 and fewer than 40 years later altered the Property Qualification statute to extend voting rights to all white males regardless of whether they owned or rented property. A few years later, the office of Mayor became an elected position in New York City. During the 1880’s, in response to decades of scandal, New York passed the foundation laws regarding the nomination process the state still uses today. As citizens, it behooves us to reassess and reform our election processes and regulations as our country changes.
Despite our long history of election evolution, reform has become a particularly heated issue over the past decade. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg now has his own four-year plan to transform New York’s election system and possibly influence state and federal legislation. (The billionaire mayor is running for a third term in office after pressuring the city council to overturn a voter referendum establishing a two-term limit.) Bloomberg’s plan would open up the nomination process, eliminate barriers, and change the day we go to the polls. Yesterday the Mayor’s office issued a press release outlining his key proposals:
* Create a “Democracy Index” to reform NYC elections. A system of metrics would focus on performance outputs, rather than policy inputs, to measure the effectiveness of the election administration process.
* Make 311 NYC’s voting hotline. Currently, New Yorkers dial a 1-800 number to access information regarding polling locations, absentee ballots, and lodge complaints or report fraud.
* Support national voter-registration modernization. Bloomberg will support federal efforts to modernize the registration process by automatically registering all eligible voters.
* Support a federal effort to institute weekend voting. Bloomberg supports changing the day we cast our ballot from Tuesday to Saturday and Sunday to make it easier for people to get to the polls and therefore increase voter turnout.
* Halve the signature requirements for the petitioning process. To make it easier for candidates to qualify for ballot inclusion, the Mayor proposes changing state law to alter the number of signatures required to the lesser of (a) 2.5% of the party voters in the district, or (b) half of the current number required under state law.
* Open the petitioning process to independent voters. Nearly 20% of the NYC electorate consists of independent voters, and their ranks continue to grow. Bloomberg’s plan would allow indies greater participation in the political process.