Miner

Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner speaks at the Volcker at 90 Symposium in Washington Thursday. 

Volcker Symposium (Screen shot)

At a symposium in Washington Thursday, Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner repeated what many have said about New York's electoral system: It's hard to vote. 

The assessment was shared by Miner, a Democrat, during a discussion about how to boost citizen engagement in government. New York has poor voter turnout statistics in recent elections. In the 2016 general election, the state ranked 41st in voter turnout. 

Miner critiqued the state's existing electoral rules, including the requirement that voters change their enrollment if they want to vote in primaries that won't be held for months. There was a deadline in mid-October for current voters to change their party if they wish to vote in next year's primary elections. Barring an unexpected change, the primary for state-level offices will be held in September 2018. 

For Miner, it was more about what New York doesn't have. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 15 states and the District of Columbia have same-day registration. New York isn't one of them. 

The state also doesn't allow no-excuse absentee voting. Most states allow some form of early voting, but not New York. 

Another of the system's flaws, according to Miner, is that voter registration is linked to a residence. 

"If you are young or if you are poor, you tend to be transient which means you can't vote because you are moving all the time and you're not tied to that," she said. 

Miner does believe the current voting rules benefit one group: elected officials. She said those in power can focus on "certain key interest groups" to help them get reelected. 

She has friends in Oregon, where voting by mail is an option and automatic voter registration is in effect. Oregon had one of the highest voter turnout rates in the country last year. 

"We should make it easier to vote," Miner said. "And I will tell you that as a local government official, lots of people care very deeply about their neighborhood, about government policies, about their neighbors and we have done — I think by design in some cases — a really remarkable job of telling them that their vote doesn't matter, they shouldn't worry about this."

One reason why Miner thinks it's important to reform the electoral system is more and more young people are enthusiastic about voting. They want to participate in the process. 

"There are people who care deeply about their neighbors and now, I think, we have to systematically make it easier and revitalize our democracy," Miner said. 

Another panelist at the Volcker at 90 Symposium, former U.S. Rep. Tom Davis, interjected and noted that New York had "three primaries last year." 

In 2016, New York did have separate primaries for president, congressional seats and state and local races. 

"It's crazy," Miner said. "I'm not going to defend it." 

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