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I’ve been around government and politics for some time, and I have never seen a summer quite like this one. The June primary required voters and the Board of Elections to adapt in response to an unprecedented pandemic. We even held all of our candidate evaluations virtually for the first time in Citizens Union’s history.

It was always going to be difficult to hold an election in these circumstances. But we’ve been actively working all summer to ensure all eligible New Yorkers are able to safely cast a ballot that will be counted this November. We have lobbied in Albany for multiple bills that will allow for easier absentee voting this November – some of which were signed into law last Thursday, we have testified before the state legislature on ways to improve the November elections and we continue to engage in critical public education efforts on the various ways New Yorkers can register to vote and cast their ballot this November.

We’ve also been in touch with the Board of Elections to ensure they are able to properly administer this fall’s elections and will be assisting them in the recruitment of poll workers from local colleges and universities. We’ll also be encouraging voters to request their absentee ballot as early as possible at, and take advantage of early voting when poll sites are less busy. 
We all have a part to play in ensuring that this fall’s elections go smoothly. You can read more about the work we’re doing in this issue of The Reformer.



Betsy Gotbaum
Executive Director, Citizens Union/Citizens Union Foundation

PS: Our Annual Member’s Meeting will be held on September 23rd from 5:30PM to 6:30PM, and will feature First Deputy Commissioner of the NYPD Ben Tucker. Please save the date! 



With 2021’s municipal elections approaching, NYC has a major opportunity to change the city and those who lead it. As you may have seen last month we announced our new project ElectNYC. This project will get New Yorkers informed and ready to change their city in a positive way and we need it more now than ever. We are very excited to share this venture with you and hope that it will provide a more in depth look at the roles local leaders play in our lives and the people looking to fill those roles. Could you contribute to this project’s success today?

This will be a collaboration between Citizens Union Foundation and Gotham Gazette. You will receive Gotham Gazette’s in-depth reporting on the candidates and Citizens Union Foundation’s historical breakdowns of why each office matters to your life and our city. We are privileged to have Eleanor Randolph, former editorial board member of the New York Times, to head this project.

In our effort to reach underserved communities with historically low voter turnout we will need your help. Please consider making a tax-deductible contribution today.




Lessons from the primary election have guided our advocacy work in Albany over this summer. Although voters of all ages enthusiastically embraced absentee voting in June, major problems arose in mailing absentee ballots, receiving them properly, and counting the votes on time. We were encouraged to see lawmakers reconvening in July for a special session to address some of the concerns brought forward by advocates, and by Governor Cuomo’s recent Executive Orders on these issues. As the state prepares for the largest mail-in voting operation New York has ever seen, these solutions are necessary to maintain a safe and fair November election.
Thanks to these actions, all registered voters can now apply for an absentee ballot online (do it here, If you are registered in NYC); the Board of Elections will also send informational mailers to all registered voters to guide them through this process. Other changes include redesigning the absentee envelope to reduce confusion, counting absentee ballots that arrive a day after election day even if they’re not postmarked, giving voters a chance to object to their absentee ballot if these were disqualified to technical errors, and more.
We were also thrilled that a longtime CU goal—establishing automatic voter registration—was passed by the Legislature. Another bill that will allow online voter registration for New York City residents, which we strongly supported, passed the Senate.

This June, a number of reform-minded candidates supported by Citizens Union won their primary election to the legislature. We preferred Emily Gallagher, Jenifer Rajkumar and Jessica González-Rojas, three exceptionally qualified and talented women who defeated incumbents, and Khaleel Anderson, who at 24 years of age will likely become the youngest member of the state Assembly. Additionally, Donovan Richards, who has served with distinction on the City Council will make an excellent Borough President.

We will once again be evaluating candidates in races for key offices this fall. As our city and state deal with twin public health and economic crises, it is more important than ever that we send reform-minded policy makers to Albany.


In 2014, Citizens Union fought to pass a constitutional amendment that reformed New York’s rigged redistricting process by creating a new independent redistricting commission and curbing partisan gerrymandering. Earlier this summer, the Legislature took a step towards reversing this progress by approving a new constitutional amendment that would eliminate the minority party’s voice in redistricting, diminish the role of the Independent Redistricting Commission, and put redistricting power back into the hands of lawmakers.

Citizens Union strongly opposed this proposal, and the highly rushed timeline of its approval, with no room for public input. This proposal will have to pass the Legislature again early next year and to be approved by a referendum in November 2021. We plan to keep a close eye on the issue and continue to fight for a fair and open redistricting process. Read more about this here.



We would like to thank the Ford Foundation for their generous contribution to our newest project ElectNYC. As we look to reach new areas of New York and support the education of ALL New Yorkers it is great to have the support of local, like-minded organizations. We are excited to begin this city wide collaboration and hope you will take a look at the early
stage of our website at .


amNewYork | Manhattan elected officials push for ballot drop boxes across New York state | 8/31/20

New York Times | Let New Yorkers Vote Online | 7/26/20

CBS New York | New York Board Of Elections Finishes Counting Absentee Ballots Over A Month After June Primary | 7/29/20

Albany Times Union | Shift could empower Democrats to draw own districts | 7/26/20

Citizens Union and Gotham Gazette launched “Citizens Union Speakers,” a regular series of op-eds written by members of the Citizens Union Foundation community. You can read the most recent entries in this series below (or see them all here):

New York Should Amend the Law Requiring Police Disciplinary Cases Be Tried Within the Police Department
Frederick Schaffer, Chair of New York City Campaign Finance Board

11 Keys to Make Policing Work
Richard J. Davis, Attorney at Law

No, Trump Can’t Postpone the Election, But Congress Needs to Fund It
Richard Briffault, Joseph P. Chamberlain Professor of Legislation, Columbia Law School



As always, Gotham Gazette is focused on informing the public and holding government officials accountable. With COVID-19 our reporting is more important than ever and your support is needed to make it happen.  If you can make a gift of any amount today, please do so by clicking the button below. We thank you in advance.

How Do Black Lawmakers and Activists View ‘Defunding the NYPD’? It’s Complicated
Samar Khurshid

Little Support for De Blasio’s Claim that Court Shutdown is Driving Gun Violence Surge
Ethan Geringer-Sameth

New York City Mandated an Absentee Ballot Tracking System; The Board of Elections Never Implemented It

Samar Khurshid



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