Readers Write: Nothing wrong with N.Y. election laws

Readers Write: Nothing wrong with N.Y. election laws

I appreciate that this newspaper makes the effort to discuss voting processes. 

However, I respectfully disagree with this newspaper’s recent editorial alleging that New York State engages in “voter suppression” because we lack open primaries, additional (early) polling days, and “same day and place as the vote” registration.

 It is not “voter suppression” to require voters to be members of a political party for a period of time, in order to vote in that party’s primary. 

 “Open primaries” permit non-members of a political party to choose a party’s candidate.  This is unfair to legitimate members of a political party, and leads to all sorts of mischief.  For instance, in “open primary” states, we’ve seen Democrats cross over to vote in Republican primaries for the Republican candidate whom they think will be most likely to lose a general election; and we’ve seen Republicans do the same to Democrats. 

 “Closed primaries” assure basic fairness.  “Closed primaries” prevent individuals who do not share the views and interests of party members from thwarting the votes of the actual members of a political party. 

 “Closed primaries” were not the reason why Senator Bernie Sanders lost the Democratic primary, as this newspaper intimated.  Hillary Clinton trounced Sanders in both the open primary and closed primary states. Sanders lost open primaries by over a 2-to-1 margin.  (Many of Sanders’ wins were in low turnout caucus states.)  (See Closed Primaries Did Not Stop Bernie Sanders,” by Bill Scher, Real Clear Politics, May 2, 2016.)

 Regarding polling days: Additional (early) polling days sounds fine in theory, but there are significant practical problems with this.  It’s also questionable whether early voting is really necessary or even effective.

 A major study funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts, by four political science professors at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, found that early voting actually lowered the voting rate.  (SeeElection Laws, Mobilization, and Turnout: The Unanticipated Consequences of Election Reform,” by political science Professors Barry Burden, David T. Canon, Kenneth R. Mayer, and Donald P. Moynihan, American Journal of Political Science, Sept. 9, 2013.)

 New York State already does a great deal to enable her citizens to vote.  New York State has the longest election day polling hours (6 a.m. to 9 p.m.) of any state in the entire country.  New York also has voting via absentee ballot. 

New York is also one of only a handful of states that have designated Election Day as a civic holiday.  

 In addition, New York State Election Law (section 3-110) requires employers to give two hours off with pay, at the beginning or end of a shift, to employees who would not otherwise have 4 consecutive non-working hours available to vote while the polls are open on Election Day. 

Employers are required to post notices advising of this right.  (It may help increase voter turnout to make employers more aware of this obligation, and employees more aware of this right.) 

 On the practical level, I’ve observed how difficult it is to find poll workers and poll watchers for the election and primary days that we currently have. 

Poll workers and watchers arrive at 4 or 5 a.m. on Election Day, and leave at around 9:30 p.m., exhausted.  Opening the polls for additional days would exacerbate staffing difficulties and staffing exhaustion.

 New York State also makes it easy to register to vote, and to register for a party (or switch parties).  Citizens can simply download a form from the New York State Board of Elections (BOE) website or the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) website and mail it in, or register online, via the DMV’s online electronic voter registration system.  There’s no need to appear in person at the Elections Board. 

 While “same day and place as the vote” registration does increase turnout, it also dramatically increases the risk of fraud.  In light of the ease of registering to vote in New York, it doesn’t seem worth taking this risk. 

 What are the real reasons why people don’t vote?  Many of those reasons are unrelated to the issues raised in this newspaper’s recent editorial. 

 Some people don’t vote because they don’t like any of the candidates.  Some don’t vote because they feel that their vote would be useless – because they believe that their favored candidate or party has no real chance of winning, and our system is a “winner take all” system.  (Voting is higher in parliamentary systems.)  

 Some people don’t vote because voting takes time – and that’s true regardless of whether they vote on a Tuesday in November or on an earlier date. 

 And I’ve even heard that in some political “mixed marriages,” the couple decides not to bother voting because the husband’s and wife’s votes would cancel each other out.

 Some people don’t vote because of voter fatigue due to having so many elections – school budget votes, library bond votes, other bond votes, primaries for Congress, primaries for other positions, and national Election Day. 

 Some don’t vote because they didn’t have time to examine the issues or the candidates, and don’t know who to vote for. 

 Some people don’t vote because they are disgusted with the negativity and nastiness they observe in an election. 

 And some don’t vote because they are simply apathetic about the political process, and don’t appreciate the preciousness of being able to vote in a free country.  Perhaps educating people to really value the right to vote is the best solution. 

 Liz Berney, Esq.

Great Neck

The views expressed here are the author’s personal views.  They should not be attributed to any organization that she is affiliated with. 

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