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Letter to New York Leaders on Campaign Finance and Voting Reforms

This democracy package can be the gold standard for the rest of the nation

  • Brennan Center for Justice
November 26, 2018
The Fair Elec­tions for New York campaign sent the follow­ing letter signed by 91 groups, includ­ing the Bren­nan Center for Justice, to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and members of the New York legis­lature on Monday. The letter calls for campaign finance reform, includ­ing small donor public finan­cing of elec­tions, and voting rights to be “the first order of busi­ness in the 2019 New York State Legis­lat­ive Session.”
Governor Cuomo and Members of the New York State Legis­lature,
We write to urge you to make voting rights and compre­hens­ive campaign finance reform, led by a system of public finan­cing of elec­tions, the first order of busi­ness in the 2019 New York State Legis­lat­ive Session.
The need for an over­haul of New York’s voting and campaign finan­cing system is appar­ent and well docu­mented. It is inher­ently inequit­able, unfair and allows an exor­bit­ant amount of power to be concen­trated in the hands of the very few wealthy and well-connec­ted. This is at the great expense of every day New York­ers, and even more so for low-income and people of color, who face daily crises around hous­ing, educa­tion, health, trans­port­a­tion, a racist crim­inal justice system, and poor work­ing condi­tions.
The point is, the policies we care most about are at a consist­ent disad­vant­age in our state’s polit­ical process, when facing well-heeled oppos­i­tion. A small minor­ity of ultra-wealthy interests are doing all they can across the coun­try—in state legis­latures and in the courts—to weaken rules that support demo­cracy and collect­ive action, and strengthen rules that protect prop­erty interests above all else, includ­ing the desires of the major­ity of people. This is a national crisis, and New York State can be a leader in stop­ping it. It is with this in mind that we are coming together now, with a unified voice, to be very clear about our collect­ive request to make strength­en­ing demo­cracy in New York State—both voting reform and public finan­cing of elec­tion­s—y­our top prior­ity early in 2019.
The solu­tions we propose are well known. They are the same recom­mend­a­tions of the More­land Commis­sion of 2013, and similar to propos­als Governor Cuomo, Leader Stew­art-Cous­ins, and Speaker Heastie have sponsored or intro­duced over the years. They include:
  • A 6–1 small donor public finan­cing system for all state races, includ­ing District Attor­neys statewide, lower contri­bu­tions limits, clos­ing the LLC loop­hole and a func­tional, fair admin­is­trat­ive agency, much like Connecti­c­ut’s Citizens Elec­tions Program.
  • A voting rights pack­age that includes, but is not limited to: enfran­chise­ment of people on parole into law; auto­matic voter regis­tra­tion; early voting; same day regis­tra­tion (amend­ment); and pre-regis­tra­tion of 16– and 17-year olds.
Early 2019 enact­ment of these crit­ical, found­a­tional reforms that would change the way Albany oper­ates can and should be the first of many sizable victor­ies for the people of New York under new lead­er­ship. We are thank­ful that many of you each have publicly suppor­ted these reforms in the past, and equally thank­ful that there is no longer anything stand­ing in the way of making them a real­ity. We look forward to work­ing closely with you to enact a demo­cracy pack­age that can be the gold stand­ard for the rest of the nation.
50 West 93 Street Tenant Asso­ci­ation
Alli­ance for Qual­ity Educa­tion
Amer­ican Pakistani Public Affairs Commit­tee
Asso­ci­ation of Tenants of Lincoln Towers
Bend the Arc
The Black Insti­tute
Bren­nan Center for Justice
Buffalo Demo­cratic Social­ists of Amer­ica
Campaign for New York Health
Capital District Demo­cratic Social­ists of Amer­ica
Churches United For Fair Hous­ing
Citizen Action New York
The Civics Center
Community Voices Heard
CWA District 1
Demo­cracy Initi­at­ive
Demo­cracy Matters
Dutchess County Progress­ive Action Alli­ance
Empire State Indi­vis­ible
End Citizens United
Equal Citizens
Ethical Human­ist Soci­ety of Long Island
Every Voice
Four Freedoms Demo­cratic Club
Greater NYC for Change
Grass­roots Action NY
Human Works, Inc.
Human Services Coun­cil
Human­ists of Long Island
Indi­vis­ible Beek­man
Indi­vis­ible CD19 NY
Indi­vis­ible Nation BK
Indi­vis­ible the Fight Is On
Jews for Racial & Economic Justice
Labor-Reli­gion Coali­tion of NYS
Long Island Civic Engage­ment Table
Long Island Jobs with Justice
Long Island Network for Change
Long Island Progress­ive Coali­tion
Long Island Together
Make the Road New York
MAYDAY Amer­ica
Metro New York Health Care for All
MPower Change
Muslims For Progress
Natural Resources Defense Coun­cil (NRDC)
New York Civic Engage­ment Table
New York Communit­ies for Change
New York Immig­ra­tion Coali­tion
New York Progress­ive Action Network
New York State Coun­cil of Churches
New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG)
Nobody Leaves Mid-Hudson
North Amer­ican Climate, Conser­va­tion and Envir­on­ment (NACCE)
North­east NY Coali­tion for Occu­pa­tional Safety & Health
North­w­est Bronx Indi­vis­ible
NYCA­IC’s #HALT­sol­it­ary campaign
NYCD16 Indi­vis­ible
NYS Nurses Asso­ci­ation (NYSNA)
Our Revolu­tion
The People’s Empower­ment Project/Demo­cracy Coffee
People Power Patchogue
Progress­ive East End Reformers (PEER)
Progress­ive Power Inwood Heights
Progress­ive Turnout Project
Public Citizen
Rein­vent Albany
River­side Edge­combe Neigh­bor­hood Asso­ci­ation
Rock­land United
Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter
Small Planet Insti­tute
Solid­ar­ity Commit­tee/Capital District
Strong Economy For All Coali­tion
Suffolk Progress­ives
Sunrise NYC
Tenants Polit­ical Action Commit­tee
True Blue New York
Ulster People for Justice & Demo­cracy
Union Vale Indi­vis­ible
Uptown Progress­ive Action
Westchester for Change
Work­ing Famil­ies Party
(Image: BCJ/Shut­ter­stock)