Move Voices, More Choices

By Timothy Dunn | December 16, 2023

It’s not a bold statement to say that democracy is a pretty good thing. We think that more democracy would be even better. Imagine a state where our votes mattered, and New Yorkers had more and diverse choices on the ballot. Unite NY thinks it’s possible if we enable more voices and more choices.

In the coming weeks, Unite NY will be mobilizing our thousands of followers to call on Albany to embrace the “More Voices, More Choices” campaign to give power to voters. Unite NY will devote critical resources to fund digital ads, direct mail, and will be walking the halls of the Capitol as part of an aggressive campaign lobbying legislators to embrace democratic reform.

Our members, volunteers, and engaged New Yorkers are ready to raise their voices for meaningful action.

We know there are true leaders in our State Legislature who support democratic reforms and our members will be aggressively supporting their efforts and working to help them build a meaningful reform coalition — because we know the vast majority of New Yorkers want to see the following measures enacted into law:

Term limits: Now is the time to implement term limits for Statewide offices in New York. In the last several years, we’ve seen resignations and indictments lead to some of the most powerful elected officials leaving office in disgrace. It shouldn’t be a permanent seat of power, so let’s implement term limits now.

Citizen Ballot Initiatives: In about half the states in the Union, citizens can petition issues directly on the ballot for an up or down vote. This is already a right we have at the local level. Imagine a New York where voters have the power to directly decide on critical issues like abortion, redistricting, and ethics reform.

Increased Ballot Access: For decades, an independent statewide candidate could get on the ballot by submitting 15,000 signatures from registered voters. In 2020, in the dark of night and under the guise of COVID relief, former Governor Cuomo convinced the Legislature to TRIPLE this threshold. The result is a system that requires a candidate to gather more than 1,000 signatures a day to qualify for the ballot, while chosen candidates of the two parties don’t have to collect any.

Ranked Choice Voting (RCV)/Nonpartisan Primaries: The implementation of RCV in primaries in New York City drove an increase in voter turnout of more than 130,000 – more than the populations of Utica and Schenectady combined. This system empowers voters, dismantles the spoiler effect, and shifts power from party bosses directly into the hands of the people.  Assemblymember Robert Carroll has legislation (A. 479) establishing RCV statewide while also providing 3.4 million unaffiliated New Yorkers currently prohibited from participating in primaries with a real voice.

Each of these reforms would significantly improve a system most New York voters recognize is broken and unfair. We know most New Yorkers support these initiatives because for the past year we have conducted a series of statewide polls asking them about reforming democracy.

These polls are the backbone of our Voter Empowerment Index (VEI), which measures registered New York voters’ attitudes toward important democracy reforms and in 2023 consistently found that voters overwhelming support needed changes to our system. The latest VEI, conducted in November, found that 80% of voters support limits for Governor, 76% percent support term limits for the State Legislature, 71% support citizen ballot initiatives, and 62% support, nonpartisan primaries.

It is clear a wide majority of voters support changes that give voters more of a say in our democratic process, and we know there are true leaders in our State Legislature ready to take the lead in building a reform coalition to deliver them.

We know these changes could save New York. And while many consider leaving, Unite NY firmly believes in the resilience and potential of New York – a state not just worth saving, but worth transforming for the better.

Timothy Dunn is Executive Director of Unite NY. Unite NY is a movement focused on engaging and empowering voters on important issues of reform that will allow for more voices and more choices – ultimately, more democracy.