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Actors to Farmers, and Everyone in Between: Pass Fair Elections in New York

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Last week, actor Liev Schreiber sat at a desk in his home in front of his computer and recorded a 20 second video after being asked by another well-known friend.

"Hi, this is Liev Schreiber with a message to New York State politicians in Albany. There really is no question what the right thing to do is, so please, pass Fair Elections. Don't come home without it," he said, before emailing it off to us.

He wasn't alone: "I can't believe the stories I hear coming out of Albany today," Kathleen Turner said to start her video message to lawmakers.

Jason Alexander recorded himself saying that New York, "will set the trend for the whole country, which is exactly what New York should be doing."

And Sam Waterston was as blunt as his character on Law and Order. "This is a message addressed to everyone involved in politics in Albany," he said.

Alec Baldwin, Cynthia Nixon, and Daphne Rubin-Vega have videos too. Elisabeth Rohm and Kathryn Erbe taped videos with their iPhones.

None of these were shot in a studio and most of them were done from a personal computer or iPhone. With just a few days left in the legislative session, these prominent actors, most of whom are New Yorkers or have deep roots in the state, added their voices to the tens of thousands of everyday citizens who have signed petitions, called lawmakers and attended rallies, protests, and lobby days to send a message to politicians in Albany: it's finally time to clean the place up by creating a small donor public financing system to raise the voices of all people in the political process.

Similar public financing systems have changed the face of elections in states like Arizona, Connecticut, and Maine, and it could do the same for New York. Candidates could run and win competitive campaigns for office by relying on small donations from regular people instead of wealthy lobbyists or other special interests.

A Siena Research Institute poll released Monday showed that addressing legislative corruption is the top priority for New York voters in the waning days of the legislative session. Sixty-one percent of voters support a small donor public financing system.

For those of us who have been working in this field for years, this isn't a surprise. Even before the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision, Americans didn't have much faith in the political system. Since the 2010 decision, it's only gotten worse. A national poll we conducted on Election Day last November found that 64 percent of Americans believe all the money being spent in our election undermines our democracy.

In New York, that anger has led to a tremendous outburst of public support to change the status quo in Albany. An example of this support is the hundreds of pictures in our "Faces of Fair Elections" Tumblr.

It's even more apparent in the broad, diverse coalition of state and national issue advocacy organizations, business leaders, faith leaders, and labor unions that has come together to pass public policy, known as the Fair Elections bill. It's truly an unprecedented effort that has become more cause than legislative campaign.

On Tuesday, 115 state organizations and nine national networks of state groups backed up their New York colleagues by sending a letter to New York's leaders to get the job done. Hugh Espey, the executive director of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, wrote in today's Times-Union (Albany, NY) that his organization's members, while living halfway across the country, are not "different from farmers in upstate New York or small business owners in New York City in one regard: They feel shut out by a political system that rewards big donors and lobbyists representing corporations. They feel their voices matter little to our elected officials."

Voices from every corner of the state, and now the country, are demanding New York lawmakers don't come without passing Fair Elections.

This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post, Public Campaign, and Fair Elections for New York in an effort to raise the voices of everyday people in New York State through comprehensive reform of the way elections are financed. For more information on Public Campaign, click here; for more information on Fair Elections for New York, click here.