New York City's election laws are notoriously outdated and arcane, and many of them simply do not make sense. Candidates throughout New York City face trying battles to get on and stay on the ballot. Many are kicked off over extremely minor errors, from typos to the misspelling of a name none of which fairly reflects whether they deserve to be on the ballot. Elections should be about fostering Democracy, not suppressing it. We must act now to reform our election system so that voters are encouraged to participate and qualified candidates are not held hostage by excessive bureaucracy.
It is too late to change New York City's election process before the primaries on September 15th, but there are some steps that our City and State can take to reform these prohibitive laws to make our City's next elections more open and fair. Right now in New York City, I have submitted legislation to create a pro-bono legal counseling service that would help candidates who don't have the resources to hire an election lawyer. This service would be independent of the Board of Elections and provide a final legal review of a candidate's petition submission to help prevent the most common errors that often unfairly kick people off the ballot.
And on the State level, there is even more we can do to eliminate many of the most burdensome requirements current election law places on candidates. I am calling for State legislation that could and should be introduced to:
*Eliminate the requirements that only political party members can witness petition signatures, and instead simply requiring that witnesses must be a qualified voter of New York State;
*Eliminate requirements related to the gathering of signatures, such as the requirement that signers include their exact town/city/county, as the State has a database to verify this information and so it is no longer necessary; and
*Amend the unreasonably restrictive requirement that candidates have only one opportunity to correct errors on their petition filings.
These seemingly small changes would go a long way to opening up our City's election system and ensuring that qualified candidates are not left out of our electoral system for lack of financial resources or legal know-how.
But this fight does not end with ballot access - we must also work to increase voter participation so that our City has a robust election process. We should allow New Yorkers to register to vote online and on election day, and permit early voting and no-excuse absentee voting, both of which now exist in numerous other states and localities. These common sense reforms will help us build an active democracy in our city that makes all elected officials more accountable to the voters.
No candidate should ever be kicked off the ballot over a typo, and no eligible New Yorker should ever be turned away from a polling both because a form was not turned in on time. Please join this fight to ensure that New Yorkers' democratic choice is no longer jeopardized by needless red tape. Visit http://www.billdeblasio.com/petition to sign our petition and make your voice heard!