If you want people to buy something, you make it easy. That’s the secret of the Automat and Amazon and Zabar’s and Zipcar and everybody in between.
So we can conclude that the state of New York is not interested in making an essential service — voting — easy because it is not now, has never been and, based on a lack of support in the Legislature, will not be any time soon.
That’s what makes a series of proposals from a candidate for the 39th state Senate District so refreshing at a time when people are fed up or riled up about politics yet find that the state has more obstacles than solutions.
James Skoufis, a Democratic assemblyman from Woodbury, made the proposal in a symbolic way by announcing it on the day when New Yorkers went to the polls to cast votes in primary elections for members of Congress.
Before voters make their final choices for Congress in November, they will be going back to the primary polling places again in September to choose candidates for local and state races, candidates who will join the ones chosen in June in November.
Got all that?
Why two different dates for people to choose candidates? Nobody has a good explanation but it is easy to calculate the impact. We see it in the low turnout in both elections and we do not see it, but it is there, in the extra expense that gets snuck into the state budget and comes back to us in the form of taxes.
So, for a start, Skoufis wants to consolidate the two votes to make it easier on those who want to vote and easier on their bank accounts as well by reducing unnecessary and duplicative costs.
How much? He estimates that we spend an extra $10 million every other year and wants to move the state primary to June to coincide with the federal one, a practical approach since it is unlikely that New York can convince the federal government and other states to change their dates to match ours. Some have objected that the date would come in the early summer travel season. That’s why we have absentee ballots.
If the Legislature can make these modest moves, perhaps members of the Assembly and Senate will one day consider more widespread changes to increase turnout more dramatically.
Also on the list of changes Skoufis is proposing are two very familiar in other states, those where more people vote because it is more convenient. One would allow early voting, an idea that has passed in the Assembly but that the Senate, which Skoufis hopes to join, has refused to even consider. Yet another would provide for same-day registration, a practice that could increase turnout by as much as 7 percent, according to the results gathered from other states by the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Let’s see what other candidates for the Senate say. Will they join Skoufis or oppose him as the Republicans who have controlled that body for so long have done in their successful effort to restrict voting, inhibit turnout and pretend that they are not.