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advocacy for election law reform


Election law reform

The right of every citizen to vote has been a basic League of Women Voters principle since its origin. Early on, many state Leagues adopted positions on election laws. Protecting the right to vote is indivisibly part of the League’s basic purpose at all levels of government. A key element of protecting the right to vote is encouraging participation in the political process.

The League has been fighting for equal access to the polls for more than 90 years. Nationwide, we register voters, provide nonpartisan election information, including written statements directly from the candidates and live debates, and fight for elections systems that are free, fair and accessible. Today, we face significant challenges to our representative system of government and voting rights. Our work ensures that all eligible voters, particularly underrepresented populations, can exercise their right to vote. Americans deserve election systems that are free, fair and accessible for all eligible voters. The League works to modernize and streamline the voting process, promote transparent and accountable redistricting, and make it easier for all eligible citizens to participate in elections.

For more on the League’s position and activity on Election law reform, please see Impact on Issues.

election law reform: league position

Election law reform: Recent Letters, Press Releases, Op Ed Pieces, and Press Coverage
Election law reform: Testimony
Election law reform: Memos

election laW: advocacy for campaign finance reform

campaign finance reform

campaign finance reform: Summary of Current Action

In 2008, the League drafted the “Campaign finance reform, enforcement, transparency, and accountability Act of 2008.” This act strived to improve disclosure, enforcement and transparency. It also attempted to lower campaign contribution limits. Unfortunately, it failed to garner support in either house.

In 2010 both houses passed ethics reform legislation that included campaign finance reform. While there were some concerns with this legislation, it represented a welcomed and needed improvement over the status quo. In February 2010, Governor Patterson vetoed the bill, stating it failed to go far enough. The league lobbied the legislature to override the veto. This legislation included critical changes to campaign finance enforcement by strengthening the independence of the State Board of Elections, and by requiring them to garner a majority vote in order to stop an investigation from proceeding. It also improved disclosure requirements by creating a mandatory uniform format electronic disclosure system and requiring disclosure by groups who expend or contribute independent of the candidate.

In 2011, the League joined with NYPIRG to support a bill which provided for public financing for the position of Comptroller. That bill passed the Assembly but was not passed by the Senate.

In 2012, Governor Cuomo included campaign finance reform as one of his goals in the State of the State Address. Thereafter, Assembly Speaker Silver introduced campaign finance legislation which included public financing. The League and its good government colleagues at NYPIRG and Citizen Union expressed some misgivings about this legislation because it created a two-tier system in which persons who participated in public financing would be subject to one set of rules administered by one regulatory body whereas those who did not participate would be governed by another set of rules, administered by a different regulatory body.

Also in 2012, acting in response to the actions of the Governor and the elevated interest in campaign finance law piqued by the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United, and the huge influx of money into the presidential and other campaigns fostered by that and other Supreme Court cases which permit unfettered contributions and expenditures for independent expenditures, LWVNYS developed a power point presentation, supplemented by background materials, for use by the local leagues in their attempts to foster active efforts by league members and others to encourage the passage of meaningful campaign finance reform. The League obtained a grant from the Robert Sterling Clark Foundation to support this campaign. The program was presented in leagues throughout the state and before other civic organizations.

Throughout this time, the League continued to work with other good government groups in support of campaign finance reform. The lobbying focus has been on public financing of campaigns, real and independent campaign finance enforcement, and regulatory reforms. The League continues to advocate for both, believing that meaningful reform of the current laws is a necessary substrate to a successful public financing system. A beginning for these reforms is the campaign finance aspects of the 2010-vetoed Ethics Reform Act. Other focuses include:

  • Significantly decreasing sky-high campaign contribution limits that are among the highest in the country.
  • Eliminating soft money by limiting donations to “housekeeping accounts.”
  • Eliminating the transfers of campaign contributions. Currently, there is  no limit to the amount that parties and candidates can donate to other parties and candidates.
  • Banning campaign fundraising during the legislation session.
  • Limiting lobbyists involvement in campaign activities
  • Disclosure of employers and bundlers.
  • Banning personal use of campaign funds by candidates.

Campaign Finance reform: League Position


campaign finance reform: Recent Letters, Press Releases, Op Ed Pieces, and Press Coverage

campaign finance reform: Memorandums

election laW: advocacy for public finance reform

public Finance

public finance: Summary of Current Action

The League believes campaign finance reform, including public finance of campaigns for statewide office and campaigns for the New York State Assembly and Senate, are necessary to ensure the public’s right to know, combat corruption and undue influence, enable candidates to compete more equitably for public office, and allow maximum citizen participation in the political process.

Public financing systems are often characterized as fullpartial, or hybrid  public funding systems.  With a full public funding system, the candidate generally raises a certain level of small donations and then receives a lump sum sufficient to run a campaign.  The receipt of public funds usually serves as a prohibition against raising additional private funds.  With a partial public funding system the candidate raises private contributions and receives a match for each contribution, up to a certain limit.  The hybrid system combines grants and a match for small donations.  While the League has generally supported partial public finance systems, such as that of New York City, as being the most efficient, all bills must be analyzed on a case by case to determine whether they will achieve the desired results of enabling candidates to compete more equitably for public office and increasing citizen participation in the political process.

public finance: league position public finance: Archived materials

Contact the League Office or call the state the League office at 518-465-4162.