Originally Published: January 9, 2013
Citizens Union commends Governor Cuomo for again making the case for campaign finance reform in his annual State of the State address. New York State has lax campaign finance restrictions, and funding of campaigns in the state is dominated by the influence of special interests. Contributions are the highest of any state with limits, and the current lack of disclosure prevents voters from making informed choices at the polls. We also commend the Governor for continuing to propose public financing of elections for the state level that is based on the heralded system in place for New York City. Citizens Union has found that such a model could potentially make legislators more accountable to their communities and feature greater choices for voters.
A public financing program, coupled with strong campaign finance regulations, tougher disclosure laws, lower contribution limits for candidates and committees (including housekeeping accounts), as well as effective enforcement, increases the political power of average New Yorkers.
Citizens Union is supportive of Governor Cuomo’s call to create an early voting system in New York State that allows voters at least a week to cast their ballots. New York State only allows voters to cast ballots on one day, except in the limited circumstances where voters may vote via absentee ballot. Voting must be made more convenient for New Yorkers. Such a measure would create more opportunities for New Yorkers to exercise their right to vote and potentially eliminate administrative problems such as the long lines experienced in the 2012 presidential election.
Citizens Union commends Governor Cuomo for prioritizing passage of legislation to make ballots clearer and more accessible to voters. Enlarging the font size on ballots and reducing unnecessary clutter will create a cleaner ballot that clearly presents candidate choices to voters.
Citizens Union supports Governor Cuomo’s OPEN NY initiative to create a single portal for state government data. For the first time, budget data will be available in spreadsheet form, allowing the public to better understand the state budget and independently analyze funding decisions. This important portal also has the potential to obviate the need for Freedom of Information Law requests, and boost entrepreneurial use of data through an “Apps Competition,” similar to New York City’s successful Big Apps competition.
Citizens Union salutes Governor Cuomo for his leadership efforts to pass a constitutional amendment and a legal statute that, according to the State of the State booklet, “New York Rising” issued today, will permanently reform the drawing of district boundaries in New York. The creation of an independent redistricting commission not only provides New Yorkers with a greater role in how their legislative districts are drawn, but is a strong step forward in ending partisan gerrymandering and legislators drawing their own district lines. We look forward to working with Governor Cuomo to secure the second passage of the independent redistricting constitutional amendment in the state legislature.
In these coming weeks, Citizens Union looks forward to engaging with Governor Cuomo and the State Legislature to achieving the meaningful reforms for the people of New York that he supported in his address.