Tags Posts tagged with "Judie Gorenstein"

Judie Gorenstein

Stock photo

By Judie Gorenstein

Will you be using your power on Nov. 6 or abdicating it to others? Voting is not only a right but a responsibility. Yet in New York voter turnout is exceptionally low: 49th out of all 50 states in 2014 at 28 percent of eligible voters. But this year’s September primary drew twice as many voters as 2014, so with your participation we can similarly do more than double 2014’s numbers.

What do you need to know to be not only a voter but an educated one? You can check your registration details at the Board of Elections www.SuffolkVotes.com website, including your polling site and if you are enrolled in a party. If you know you are registered but your name is not there, call Suffolk BOE at 631-852-4500 to resolve any issue. October 12 is the deadline for voter registration in New York State this year. Libraries and post offices have forms and they’re also online at www.SuffolkVotes.com and should be mailed to the Suffolk BOE.

Will you be out of the county for work, school or vacation and unable to get to the polls on Nov. 6? Does a disability or hospital or rehabilitation stay prevent you going to the polls? Are you a primary caregiver and unable to vote in person? If so, you can vote on an absentee ballot. This is a two-step process. Apply for an absentee ballot by picking up a copy as described above for voter registration form, filling out the request and mailing it to the BOE by Oct. 30.

 The BOE will mail you your ballot in time for you to complete and mail back to the BOE by Nov. 5. If after you vote on an absentee ballot and then you find you can and want to vote at the polls, you MAY and your absentee ballot will not be counted. Absentee ballots are counted days after the polls close when the BOE can compare them to signatures in poll books. However, be assured if you are not able to vote on Election Day and your absentee ballot was completed correctly, it will be counted.

For those who find out after Oct. 30 that they cannot get to the polls on Nov. 6, the Suffolk BOE will be open during the weekend before Election Day. You can go to the BOE at 700 Yaphank Ave. in Yaphank and vote on an absentee ballot, which will be counted as the others are. Check its website or call the BOE to find the days and hours.

This year in Suffolk County, we will be electing our representatives in Congress (Suffolk includes all or part of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd CDs), one U.S. senator, NYS governor, NYS lieutenant governor, NYS attorney general, NYS comptroller, NYS senators, NYS assemblypeople, Suffolk County comptroller, Suffolk County clerk and Suffolk County judges. Depending on your area, there may also be special town elections or local propositions on your ballot.

Knowing who is on your ballot and learning about the candidates before you get to the polls is vital. An excellent nonpartisan data aggregation service is www.BallotReady.org, which not only gives you the candidates on your ballot but provides background information on the candidates and their stances on major issues, who is endorsing them and, if you choose, will also send you a reminder to vote. You can access it at www.VotingNewYork.org. 

When possible see and hear the candidates in person at candidate forums, debates and events. Try to find out whether the event is sponsored by a nonpartisan group in order to get a fair perspective. The press, websites and other media have lots of useful information but most do endorse candidates or represent political party perspectives. Educate yourself and encourage others to do so. You’ll all learn more, and sharing insights and facts will broaden everyone’s view and motivate all to be voters. 

 Your vote is your power. If you go to the polls Nov. 6 and find your name omitted from the poll book, ask for an affidavit ballot (also called provisional ballot). Never ever leave a poll site without voting! Provisional ballots, just like absentee ballots, are counted at the Suffolk County BOE after Election Day, and elections are not certified until they are all reviewed. Make your choice count … be a voter!

 Judie Gorenstein is vice president for voter services of the League of Women Voters of Suffolk County, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that encourages the informed and active participation of citizens in government and influences public policy through education and advocacy. For more information, visit http://www.lwv-suffolkcounty.org, email league@lwv-suffolkcounty.org or call 631-862-6860. 

Students holding buttons at voter registration

By Judie Gorenstein

New York ranked 41 out of 50 states in voter turnout in 2016 and 49 out of 50 in the 2014 off-year election. Of all eligible New York voters, only 28.2 percent voted in 2014. When you look at the youngest age group, those between 18 and 25 years old, the turnout is even lower. And nationally in 2016, 70 percent of those over 70 years old voted. By contrast, only 43 percent of those under 25 did.

As Election Day approaches, students who leave for college will ask how and where they should register and vote. Although a Supreme Court decision in 1979 gave all students the right to vote where they attend college, election law is a state’s right. Each state thus has its own laws regarding voting, including registration deadlines, residency and identification requirements (ID) at the polls. 

In New York State, any citizen not in jail for a felony conviction can register to vote in the year they turn 18. To vote this year they must be registered by Oct. 12 and be 18 by Nov. 6, the date of the 2018 General Election. 

Even if a college student is living in another state or another New York county, they can ALWAYS vote absentee in their home district, which is a two-step process. They first need to complete an absentee ballot application and mail or deliver it to their county Board of Elections by Oct. 30. (The application form can be downloaded from NY BOE at http://www.elections.ny.gov/NYSBOE/download/voting/AbsenteeBallot-English.pdf and is available at libraries, post offices and the BOE.) 

The BOE will mail the actual ballot to the student, who must return it to the BOE postmarked by Nov 5. As long as the ballot was correctly completed and received by the BOE no later than 7 days after Election Day, the vote will be counted. Absentee ballots matter … they can change an election’s outcome.  

Frequently college students decide to register and vote where they are attending college. They feel it is important to get connected and have a voice on the issues in their new community and in the state where they may be living for four plus years. The Supreme Court may have given college students the right to vote where they go to college, but students are NOT ALWAYS ABLE to vote there. Some states have put up barriers to out-of-state students through their ID and residency requirements.  

Although New York in most cases does not require any voter ID at the polls, 34 states do so, with 17 states requiring photo ID. In Pennsylvania a college photo ID is sufficient while in other states it is not. In Texas a state-issued driver’s license or handgun license is accepted but not a college ID.  

Election laws can change. New Hampshire has just tightened its voter residency requirements, making it necessary for a student to register his or her car in New Hampshire and obtain a New Hampshire driver’s license. Students who want to vote at their college address should access that state’s most current requirements at www.campusvoteproject.org/ for election law and registration deadline information. “Your Right to Vote in New York State for College Students” is also available from LWVNYS at http://www.lwvny.org/advocacy/vote/RTVCollegeStudents.pdf 

In this time of student activism, those interested in a political career should strongly consider voting absentee; the residency requirement for a New York State candidate is living in the state or district for five years prior to being able to get on the ballot. But whether students decide to register and vote absentee in New York or in their college community, it is important that they learn about the issues and the candidates on their ballot, and VOTE. Our democracy works best when everyone participates.

Judie Gorenstein is vice president for voter services of the League of Women Voters of Suffolk County, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that encourages the informed and active participation of citizens in government and influences public policy through education and advocacy. For more information, visit http://www.lwv-suffolkcounty.org, email league@lwv-suffolkcounty.org or call 631-862-6860.

Students line up to speak at a March for Our Lives rally in Port Jefferson Station on March 24. Photo by Alex Petroski

By Judie Gorenstein

Our democracy works best when everyone participates. Although the League of Women Voters works diligently to encourage all citizens to be informed and active participants in our government, engaging and motivating our youth is a particularly important challenge. Nationwide the young are the least likely to turn out to vote. In the 2016 presidential election, only 50 percent of young people voted. Reasons varied from apathy to alienation, from not feeling their votes counted or mattered to not seeing voting as being important.     

Over the past few years local leagues in Suffolk County have made great efforts to transform students into educated and motivated voters, and 2018 is a good example.

Voter registration drives are held at both colleges and high schools.

Vote 18 is an interactive lesson plan for government classes. This program does more than just register students. It takes them first through the history of voting followed by participation in a mock election for a political office. Following the discussion, the students running for office make their speeches, and before a vote is taken a percentage of students are not given ballots and not allowed to vote. Students see for themselves how nonvoters make a difference in election results. The message is strong: Do not give up your power. Your vote does matter. It is not only important to register but to vote. The majority of students register to vote at the end of this lesson.

Students Inside Albany is a selective, three-day program with 60 students chosen by local leagues from all over the state. They have the wonderful experience of seeing for themselves how their government works. They tour the capitol building in Albany, shadow their NYS Senate and NYS Assembly members, sit in on a legislative session, learn how to lobby and much more. The students are often amazed that it is so different from what they anticipated and often are motivated to explore a political career. Some students have even been given summer internships with their elected officials.

Student Day at the Suffolk County Legislature is co-sponsored by the LWV and the Suffolk County Legislature. High school students take a day to learn about their county government by meeting and hearing from the presiding officer and members of the Legislature and department heads and then prepare for and participate in a mock legislative session where they debate and vote on a bill.  

Running and Winning is a one-day workshop for girls from local high schools to encourage them to consider a political career. Women public officials make brief presentations and then are each interviewed by a group of students who design and present their own political campaign for a virtual woman candidate. Many girls who have never considered political careers leave feeling they can do and be anything they want and will consider public service. 

We strive to develop and present programs that will engage students, which has often been difficult. Recently things began to change. Student groups sought out the league and became student members and learned from us.

Next Generation Politics, a youth nonpartisan political group asked the LWV of Huntington to help with its first event, a public debate on the electoral college versus the popular vote. This group has now affiliated with over 50 chapters in 15 states and works to promote its mission of nonpartisanship and civic engagement. 

Girl Scout troops called the LWV of the Hamptons to develop a program to help their girls earn their suffrage badge. Libraries and high schools have contacted us asking to do youth programs because of a need and interest in their community. 

On college campuses, students came up to our voter registration table and thanked us for being there. 

After the shooting at Parkland High and the youth-created activist movement March for Our Lives, students everywhere are seeing the need to act, to speak out and to have their voices heard. They are now engaging each other, realizing the power of their vote and wanting to make a difference as the future leaders of our country.

Judie Gorenstein is vice president for voter services of the League of Women Voters of Suffolk County, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that encourages the informed and active participation of citizens in government and influences public policy through education and advocacy. For more information, visit www.lwv-suffolkcounty.org, email league@lwv-suffolkcounty.org or call 631-862-6860.

by -
0 610

By Judie Gorenstein

On Election Day this November, 31.9 percent of registered voters in Suffolk County turned out to vote in an off-year election. Although this means that less than one-third of those registered actually voted, this was more than 50 percent greater than the turnout four years ago, when only 20.9 percent voted (presidential/congressional elections consistently have greater turnout in even-numbered years).

This substantial increase in the 2017 turnout was the result of an organized opposition to the proposed constitutional convention. For the most part, the opponents were concerned that they might lose their rights to collective bargaining and pension rights for teachers and other public workers.  People are always energized when they fear they might lose something they have, when they believe their rights will be taken away, and turn this energy into action and voting.

What about being motivated to fight for rights you do not have? The women suffragists were highly motivated to fight for the right to vote. In fact, they began in 1848 in Seneca Falls and finally got the right to vote in New York State in 1917; 100 years ago — three years before all women in the United States got that right. Currently, however, New York has one of the lowest voter turnouts, ranking 41 out of 50 states.

It’s true that we do not have laws deliberately designed to discourage voting or restrict those who can vote (such as states whose selective permissible IDs allow gun permits but not college IDs, which disenfranchise specific groups of voters, or require special IDs for those without driver’s licenses, which are only issued in a small number of locations statewide). But we discourage voting in less obvious ways:

• New York is one of the minority of states that does NOT have early voting, which allows voters to go to the polls on selected days prior to Election Day. Allowing people to vote on weekends before Election Day helps those whose work schedules prohibit them from getting to the polls on the first Tuesday in November.

• We are in the minority of states that do NOT have no-excuse absentee voting. Currently, voters must attest that they have a legitimate reason (travel, illness, etc.) to ask for an absentee ballot.

• We have one of the longest time requirements between registration and voting. A New York State voter has to register 25 days before the election. And anyone who wants to vote in a party primary must be registered in that party over a year before the primary (since New York is a “closed primary” state).

• The full-faced ballot that the state requires is difficult to read (requiring magnifying glasses at each polling station) and confusing in design.

• In addition, in even years when we have both state and federal primaries, these are scheduled during two different months; and when there is a presidential election, we add a third primary day. This is not only costly but confuses voters and leads to low voter turnout.

• With our archaic election laws, it is no wonder that New York State voter turnout is low!

Voters who supported the constitutional convention (Proposition 1 on the 2017 ballot) saw it as an opportunity to modernize our election and other laws through citizen involvement in updating the state’s constitution. Since that proposition was defeated, laws can only be changed through the existing legislative process in Albany. This means that bills to change election laws must pass in both the New York Assembly and the New York Senate in two consecutive years.

Can this happen? Yes, it certainly can.

Will it happen? Remember that our state senators and assembly members were elected with the current laws and redistricting that favor the incumbents. New York’s incumbent return rate is one of the highest in the nation, hovering close to 95 percent. Thus, to convince them to introduce and pass bills to change the laws, there has to be a groundswell from the public demanding such change.

Voters need to advocate for the modernization of our election laws and lobby their legislators to introduce and vote for bills that enfranchise voters. We need no-excuse absentee ballots. We need early voting. We need to be able to register closer to the day of the election.  In fact, same-day registration would be preferable. Voters must do their part to bring about these changes.

What can you do?  First, know who your elected New York State officials are. The League of Women Voters of Suffolk County produces a Directory of Public Officials annually, which can be viewed on the LWV of Suffolk County website: www.lwv-suffolkcounty.org and print copies are also available. Once you identify your state senator and assembly member, contact them.

You can join and participate in the good government groups that already exist advocating for change.  You can go the LWV New York State website www.lwvny.org and click on advocacy and see what the League has been doing. You can also organize your own group — get others who like you are civically minded and want to bring about change.  It is true that right now, big money plays a major role in influencing policy on all levels, but remember it is only people who can vote. Speak up, encourage others to do so and have your voices heard. Our democracy works best when everyone participates.

Judie Gorenstein is vice president for voter services of the League of Women Voters of Suffolk County, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that encourages the informed and active participation of citizens in government and influences public policy through education and advocacy. For more information, visit www.lwv-suffolkcounty.org, email league@lwv-suffolkcounty.org or call 631-862-6860.

Social

9,347FansLike
0FollowersFollow
1,149FollowersFollow
33SubscribersSubscribe