In a new GothamTalks video OpEd, NYDLC Executive Director Jarret Berg discusses the modern fight to vote in New York and across America; several desperately-needed voting reforms lawmakers should enact in 2018; NYDLC's election monitoring, pro-voter advocacy, and rights-based community programming; and the need for a drastic cultural shift among the rising American electorate so all eligible voters are ready to participate in local elections. Watch the full video here.
For Immediate Release, Nov. 28, 2017
Contact: (866) NYDLC-01; [email protected]
The Gotham Gazette and New Leaders Council NYC have partnered to develop GothamTalks, a video OpEd series showcasing the organizing efforts and reform-minded commentary of New York City advocates and civic leaders. In a video highlighting NYDLC's commitment to advancing voting rights, Executive Director Jarret Berg discusses the modern fight to vote in New York and across America and what needs to be done to protect the fundamental franchise and improve the responsiveness of our democracy. Watch the full video here.
Show your support by using #GothamTalks on social media, and tag us @NYDLC, @GothamGazette, and @NLC_NYC.
"The fundamental right to vote is the most essential right Americans have, because it safeguards all other rights. That’s as true today as it was revolutionary when the framers decided that America would only derive legitimate authority from the consent of the governed", says Berg, who explains that voter suppression tactics are motivated by "a desperate attempt to cling to power during changing times".
The multi-generational struggle to secure basic civil rights need not be a partisan one: "President Bush recognized in 2006 that voting is inherent to our democracy when he reauthorized the bipartisan Voting Rights Act for 25 years"--transformative Civil-Rights-Era legislation that was extended in 2006 by overwhelming majorities in both the U.S. Senate (98-0) and House of Representatives (390-33). Unfortunately, core VRA "pre-clearance" safeguards were blocked in 2013 by a deeply-divided Supreme Court in Shelby County v. Holder. Berg recalls that less than 24 hours later states like Texas and North Carolina "restricted voting in ways that disproportionately burdened minorities and the poor. Courts have repeatedly intervened, finding that the proponents—sitting elected officials—were motivated by racially discriminatory intent."
The proliferation of state-sponsored voter suppression laws and tactics is a dangerous trend that undermines our democracy at home and our credibility abroad: "What keeps our complex civil society so stable is a delicate balance between majority rule and minority rights. When citizen voices are suppressed, the premise of democracy unravels."
In New York the path forward on voter access is clear: "We need a comprehensive overhaul of both our registration and voting systems. Many of these reforms were included in NYDLC's 2017 New York State Pro-Voter Legislative Agenda and will be top priorities for 2018.
"We should embrace Automatic Voter Registration and portability so voters aren’t kicked off the rolls when they move. Our registration deadline should be as close to the election as possible instead of more than 3 weeks out, and we should quickly adopt a system of one-stop registration and voting. Since we require voters to register, it’s only fair that they be able to do so on the Board of Elections website. Modernizing registration keeps voter rolls accurate, eliminating the sloppy snail-mail purges that affected thousands of Brooklyn voters in 2016. These measures ensure that the registration step doesn’t block those eligible from voting and serves its intended purpose—facilitating a fair process.
"When it comes to actual balloting, the key is convenience: We should replace our single Election Day with an Election Period that includes weekends. Vote centers would provide busy New Yorkers with location options and absentee voting should be made available to all. Until then, we should work with Uber, TLC, and Access-a-Ride to ensure access for the elderly, the disabled, and the poor. New York should also consolidate separate state and federal primaries to focus voter turnout and Albany could use the tens-of-millions in savings to enact these needed reforms.
Show your support by using #GothamTalks on social media and tag @NYDLC, @GothamGazette, and @NLC_NYC.
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