Stroock Hosts Forum on Voter Turnout: Is New York Still A Democracy?
New York, NY, May 6, 2015 -- Stroock & Stroock & Lavan LLP presented a Government Leadership Forum today on voter participation in New York, featuring Congressman Jerrold "Jerry" Nadler; DeNora M. Getachew, Campaign Manager and Legislative Counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law; and Douglas A. Kellner, Co-Chair of the New York State Board of Elections. The event was held at the firm’s New York office.
Robert Abrams, former New York State Attorney General and Chair of Stroock's Government Relations Practice, and Jerry H. Goldfeder, Stroock Special Counsel and Election Law attorney, moderated the panel discussion.
"New York State is ranked 49th in the country for voter participation," said Abrams. "The panelists offered thoughtful and strong perspectives on the consequences of not voting, how to improve voter turnout, and why that is important to the well-being of its citizens."
Nadler attributed low turnout to "alienation – the unequal distribution of power and finance – and cynicism, with funders rather than party leaders influencing nominations." "Voters are hurt by not having same-day registration, and they don't see their lives getting better by voting," he said, noting that some states and other countries automatically enroll eligible voters. "Everyone who is legally able to vote, should."
The panelists agreed that voter registration systems across the country should not be a barrier to voting. "The percentage of voter fraud is miniscule compared with the number of people blocked from voting," said Kellner. "The early-voting model already adapted in 20 states should be in place across the country, along with 'no-excuse necessary' absentee ballots," he said, adding that giving voters a small tax credit for voting is worth exploring.
"New Yorkers are afraid their voices won't be heard," said Getachew. "The voter registration doesn’t encourage participation in representation," adding that in a metro area like New York City, not everyone has a driver's license to use as voter identification. "Government," she said, "is here to serve the people."
Congressman Nadler represents the Tenth Congressional District of New York, which includes much of the West Side of Manhattan, the Financial District and a number of diverse neighborhoods in southwestern Brooklyn. He began his political career in 1976 in the New York State Assembly, where he served for 16 years. He was elected in 1992 to the U.S. House of Representatives in a special election and has served in Congress ever since.
Getachew is the Campaign Manager and Legislative Counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law. In this capacity, she manages advocacy initiatives aimed at improving the country’s democracy. She also serves as First Vice-Chair of Manhattan Community Board 7 and is a board member and co-chair of the benefit committee of Union Settlement, an on-the-ground resource for the East Harlem community.
Kellner is Co-Chair of the New York State Board of Elections and a partner at Kellner Herlihy Getty & Friedman LLP. He founded the Community Renaissance Corporation of Harlem and Washington Heights and the Manhattan Valley Housing Clinic, and has also served as counsel to the New York State Assembly Banking Committee.
Today's event was the 22nd in a series hosted by Stroock & Stroock & Lavan LLP. The forum was sponsored by Stroock’s Government Relations Practice Group, led by Abrams and comprised of former prosecutors, judges, and government agency officials. Abrams also served as President of the National Association of Attorneys General, Executive Chair of New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo’s Transition Committee and Honorary Co-Chair of Attorney General Schneiderman’s Transition Committee.
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