When people ask me why I’m involved with Unite NY, I tell them it’s very simple, it’s an organization that is working very hard to raise voter awareness about many of the problems that are hurting our democratic process.
I’m honored to currently be serving my 7th term on the Rome Common Council, and ever since I was first elected, I’ve always felt it was vital to not only raise voter awareness of the issues our community faces, but also raise awareness of this issues that keep people from participating in the electoral process.
As an elected official, one of my biggest frustrations is low voter engagement and people not participating in the process. At the local level, unless there’s a controversial issue, turnout at the polls is dismal, and the underlying reason is people feel like their voice is not being heard. Unite NY is working to change that, and that’s why I’m proud to be involved.
A prime example of people not being heard is the fact that we now have 3.5 million New Yorkers that cannot vote in primaries, which we all know are often the elections that decide who will represent a particular district. New York is one of only 9 states that does not have some form of an open primary process and just a few short years ago, Governor Andrew Cuomo, acting almost seemingly in the dead of night, rammed through a bill that eliminated most of New York’s third parties, leaving half a million people in this state without a party.
When people feel marginalized, they don’t participate in the system, and that only benefits those already in power.
I also fight to Unite NY because our system of government is broken and the fiasco that was the redistricting process just confirms that. Partisan, gerrymandered lines designed to ensure one party rule were correctly thrown out by the courts, but the confusion continues. We now have multiple primary dates, new petitioning processes, more court challenges, and the taxpayer is the group that is footing the costs.
This chaos also discourages new candidates from coming forward and challenging for seats. Without knowing exact district boundaries and what the process would be to get on the ballot, many potential public servants, did not have the time to properly prepare to run for other offices.
We need to lower barriers to participation and make sure the voice of the voter is heard. We need to work towards an election process that levels the playing field so that NY does not fall into the current sinkhole of one-party control, or control by party bosses. We know voters want these reforms, as Unite NY’s Voter Engagement Index clearly demonstrates voters are more likely to support candidates who advocate for reform than those who do not. Sadly, this very reform is being denied by our current leadership.
The voice of the voter is being ignored. Ballot measures that were rejected by voters last November are being pushed through via Executive Orders from the Governor. Campaign financing is bordering on corruption. Excessive lobbying has negatively influenced the decisions made by our representatives in Albany and Washington, and it is time for all of that to change.
It is time to put people over party and restore faith in government. It is time to Unite NY. Won’t you please join me?