By Henry Euler
The November election this year in the City of New York resulted in an extremely low turnout of registered voters. One figure that I heard for turnout was 5 percent. Granted, there were few races of note this year.
Here in Queens, we were electing a district attorney and various judges plus a smattering of special contests, depending in what area of the borough you resided. The district attorney had no opposition. In fact, incumbent Richard Brown had three-party endorsement. Several of the judges also had multi party backing, so the contests did not excite public interest and the results were not surprising. Also, there were no propositions or other initiatives on the ballot this year.
This election cost the residents of the city somewhere in the neighborhood of $10 million to conduct. A similar situation happened in 2011. Every four years we have this general election year that is not the presidential election year nor the gubernatorial election year nor the mayoral election year. It is the general election year that sparks little notice. Wouldn’t it make sense to readjust the length of the terms of the offices up in such a year so that the terms would expire to coincide with one of the other three general election years? Ballot proposals could be limited for public consideration in those other three general election years as well. Then we could just not have any general election in that fourth election cycle.
Think of what could be done with the money saved by canceling such an off year election. There would be more money for children’s afterschool programs, more money to help our senior citizens and our veterans, more money for our non-profits who serve the public. The list goes on and on.
When I went to vote this year, the poll workers were just sitting waiting for voters to show up. Interpreters and other election personnel were idle. What a waste of resources!
Our election process is antiquated and costly as it is. Those election devices that we now use in our city cost millions of dollars to purchase. And we are still basically using paper ballots. The lever machines that we used to employ are stored somewhere collecting dust and that costs money too. The total cost of poll workers, interpreters and other election personnel is very high. Voter turnout in the last few years has been low. What can be done?
It is time that we join the 21st century and use techniques that encourage voter participation and reduce costs. Mail-in voting, online voting and universal registration in place of the current process would increase participation and save money. People who do not want to participate could elect out. And the window of opportunity to select your elected leaders would be broadened so that people would no longer have an excuse for not voting. Some states are using these techniques successfully and do not seem to have a problem with voter fraud. Isn’t it time for New York and other states to employ new strategies to encourage voting and lower costs?