12/06/2010 06:07 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Bloomberg Pushes For Major Voting Reforms Following Last Election's Weak Turnout

CITY HALL -- Voting in your living room could be a reality next Election Day if Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Rev. Al Sharpton get their way.

Bloomberg and Sharpton led a coalition of elected officials and good government groups Monday calling for new legislation that would permit New Yorkers to cast their votes earlier and register later in an effort to boost voter participation. They're also advocating a measure that would allow voters to fill in paper ballots at home and then bring them to polling sites to be scanned and counted.

The move comes after New York was ranked dead last in voter turnout during last month's midterm elections, with only one-third of voters casting ballots -- 20 percent below the national average, according to Bloomberg.
Mayor Joins Sharpton, Good Government Groups in Push for Early Voting, Easier RegistrationThe state's voter participation has dropped far below the national average. (Couresy of City Hall)

"When it comes to voting laws, New York State's are the most restrictive and most outdated in the entire country," Bloomberg said. "[They are] the worst of any state in the nation."

But the coalition is hoping to change that with a series of proposals. One would allow voters to cast their ballots one to two weeks early at "super poll sites" in every district, as is already done in many states. Another would allow voters to fill out the ballots at home, while a third would permit voters to register ten days before an election instead of the current 25.

Rev. Al Sharpton said the reforms "are not only necessary, but ought to be mandatory" next election day.

He said he was embarrassed as he travelled to other states encouraging early voting when New Yorkers were trapped "in the dark ages."

"We are trendsetter in the state of New York. People look to this state from all over the country," he said. "We would have to duck and hide if they looked at our electoral process."

Former City Council Speaker Peter Vallone Sr. agreed that the city should be doing everything it can to make it easier for residents to vote.

"What we do is everything we can to prevent people from voting rather than encourage them," he said of the current system.

Bloomberg also took the opportunity to slam the City's Board of Elections once again, following a series of problems with the roll-out of the city's new voting machines.

He described the Board as "an outrage" and labeled its conduct "one of the great disgraces of all time."

"The Board of Elections needs to learn how to run a one day election and learn how to count all the votes," he said.

He called on Governor-elect Andrew Cuomo to make reforming the Board his first order of business when he arrives in Albany.

"There is nothing else that's more important," Bloomberg said.

Cuomo spokesman Josh Vlasto declined to comment on the coalition's plan.

A Board of Elections spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment.

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