By Bill Parry
In the aftermath of National Voter Registration Day, state Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria) took to the steps of City Hall Wednesday and called for the enactment of the Voter Empowerment Act.
The bill would automatically register every eligible citizen to vote through the Department of Motor Vehicles and other government agencies, only excluding those who opt out.
The reform would newly register more than 2 million New Yorkers to vote. The Voter Empowerment Act would also allow voters to automatically update their information, permit pre-registration of 16- and 17-year-olds, automatically transfer registrations of New Yorkers who move within the state, provide access to voter registration records and registration of eligible citizens online, and allow people to register or change their party later in an election cycle.
“There is no good reason why our citizens are made to jump through hoops just to exercise their democratic rights,” Gianaris said. “We must do all we can to increase New Yorkers’ dismal voter participation rates and automatically registering eligible citizens to vote would be a great start.”
Josh Mumm, the Outreach Manager for Common Cause New York, believes that National Voter Registration Day should be of particular importance to New Yorkers.
“Our state has the unfortunate distinction of ranking 44th in voter participation,” he said. “This is not because New Yorkers are lazy. Voter participation is low in this state because our processes by which we register to vote and cast our ballots in New York have not kept up with the changing times in which we live.”
Gianaris wants to make it easier for New Yorkers to register and vote. He’s also trying to root out corruption.
On Monday, Gianaris also announced the introduction of legislation to reform local government’s public contracting process. As a result, conflicts of interest would be exposed, ensuring that winning bids come from responsible and cost-effective contractors and not political cronies.
“The news is riddled with stories of local contracting procedures that have led to questionable contracts awarded to vendors with political contacts,” Gianaris said. “We must enact more stringent requirements to give the public confidence that their tax dollars are being spent wisely and without corruption.”
To prevent potential corruption in the future, Gianaris’ proposal would require local governments to participate in a state system operated by the Office of the State Comptroller or create their own vendor system which complies with the requirements of a statewide system that requires an extensive amount of vetting of potential vendors.
These potential vendors would have to disclose any criminal convictions of the company related to truthfulness or business conduct in the last 10 years and any pending bankruptcy proceedings or filings in the past seven years. The company’s contract sanction history and any judgments or injunctions against a potential vendor would also be disclosed if Gianaris’ legislation is approved.
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr