This fall, in addition to congressional and local races, the governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, comptroller, and all 213 State Senate and State Assembly seats will be on the ballot. When candidates ask for your vote, be sure you ask them where they stand on a number of vital issues. Their positions can put New York in a stronger position to resist Washington’s anti-civil liberties agenda. The general election is on November 6, and the last day to register to vote is October 12.
WILL YOU MAKE VOTING MORE ACCESSIBLE TO ELIGIBLE NEW YORKERS?
When it comes to voting, New York is in the dark ages. The District of Columbia and 37 states allow some form of early voting; not New York. D.C. and 30 states provide no-excuse absentee balloting; not New York. D.C. and 15 states offer same-day voter registration, but New York requires voters to register 25 days before. The lack of electronic poll books at polling places means outmoded paper poll lists cause widespread problems nearly every election. Often, eligible voters must forfeit their votes or cast uncounted provisional ballots.
Not surprisingly, our state’s inaction on election reform has contributed to dismal voter turnout and registration. New York had the eighth-worst turnout in the country in the 2016 general election. Only 57 percent of voting-age citizens cast a ballot. New York also ranked 47th in voter registration rate, at just 59 percent. This means many New Yorkers’ voices are not being heard, and they don’t have a say in who represents them.
WILL YOU SUPPORT STATE REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS PROTECTIONS?
Reproductive rights are under attack at the federal level. The Trump administration seeks to overturn Roe v. Wade and repeal regulations under the Affordable Care Act that mandate coverage of contraception without a co-payment. New York must act and pass the Reproductive Health Act and the Comprehensive Contraceptive Coverage Act.
The Reproductive Health Act would fix New York’s broken abortion law. Unless it’s immediately lifesaving, getting an abortion after 24 weeks is a criminal act under state law — even when a woman’s health is at risk or a fetus is not viable. That falls short of Roe v. Wade and results in devastating denials of care. New York needs to move regulation of abortion from the criminal code to the public health law where it belongs. We also need the state to require that insurers offer contraceptive coverage without co-payment to all.
WILL YOU SUPPORT REFORM OF NEW YORK’S BROKEN CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM?
New York’s criminal justice system is inadequate, unfair, and deeply broken. Each year tens of thousands of New Yorkers are stuck behind bars, kept from work and family, because they can’t afford to pay bail. A slow and backlogged court system drags out their injustice, as they wait months or even years for trial. Unfair evidence-sharing laws give many defendants and lawyers precious little time to review case materials. Many New Yorkers remain behind bars for minor marijuana possession, an offense supposedly decriminalized in 1977. Such injustices disproportionately affect people of color and poor New Yorkers.
New York needs real criminal justice system reform. That includes bail reform: New Yorkers charged with minor offenses should not spend time locked up, period – and never because of the size of their bank accounts. Speedy trial: Prosecutors must live up to the constitutional guarantee of trial within a reasonable timeframe. Discovery reform: New York should ensure open, early, and automatic access to all evidence collected by prosecutors. And Marijuana legalization: New York should end prohibition, mitigate its ongoing criminal justice consequences, and direct the economic benefits to the communities that have been most impacted.
WILL YOU MAKE NEW YORK SAFER FOR IMMIGRANT NEW YORKERS?
When local law enforcement takes up federal immigration enforcement, it harms public safety. That’s not just the NYCLU’s position, it’s also the view of the New York State Police, the New York State Sheriff’s Association, the New York State Attorney General, the Major Cities Chiefs Association, and the Presidential Task Force on 21st Century Policing. Immigrants are less likely to report crimes or cooperate with investigations when they fear that they or their family members will be questioned, detained, or deported.
Many law enforcement agencies and local governments throughout New York already refuse to cooperate with federal immigration enforcement agencies, despite threats from Washington to cut off funding. Our elected officials must side with immigrant New Yorkers in the face of this bullying. They must resist unprecedented and unconstitutional efforts to coopt local officials into carrying out an inhumane deportation agenda.
WILL YOU PROTECT THE WELL-BEING AND EDUCATION OF PUBLIC SCHOOL STUDENTS?
A loophole in state law means that New York’s 3 million public school students can be subjected to discrimination or harassment based on race, gender, national origin, religion, and disability, with no legal recourse at the state level. Given the Trump administration’s rollback of federal civil rights protections for students, it is more important than ever to fix New York’s Human Rights Law so our students can learn in a safe and supportive environment.
As a result of inadequate funding, many public school facilities, resources, and materials are so deficient that they result in an impoverished learning environment, effectively denying students a “sound basic education” required by the state constitution. Many leave school without the skills necessary to thrive in our society. We must ensure that New York’s public schools are adequately funded, and continue to fight misguided educational spending measures that would take precious dollars away from crucial public school resources.