By Jon Cronin
During the second half of Tuesday night’s State of the City address, Mayor Bill de Blasio laid out a battle plan for a democracy in crisis.
In 10 points, the mayor laid out a plan—which he called “Democracy NYC”—to make it easier for citizens to run for office, vote in elections and be engaged. The mayor promised “deep public financing” for local elections to “get big money out of politics.”
As part of his plan to make New York City “the fairest big city in America,” the mayor wants to make it easier for people to vote, which includes getting transportation to and from your polling stations as well as same day registration.
“The Board of Elections has no coherent plan to do so,” de Blasio said, calling the board’s system “customer unfriendly.”
De Blasio stated the recent news that Russia successfully hacked into some states’ voting records “is not a headline from an 1980s action movie,” and added that he would invest in an election cyber-security system to protect the city’s voting system from hackers.
He also announced that in the coming weeks, he will name the person to fill the new position of chief democracy officer in the city. That person will be responsible for registering 15 million people to vote over the next four years.
Part of that plan will be to register 17-year-olds to vote in their schools and then create a program that will keep students civically active throughout their lives. De Blasio is implementing a program pioneered by the City Council’s participatory budgeting program. He will give each high school in the five boroughs $2,000 and have students vote on what they should do with it.
De Blasio said that the average person can feel daunted when trying to navigate the city and state when planning a run for office.
“It can feel hard to find the information you need,” he said. “A lot of people don’t even really know where to start. So, we’re going to create an online portal, a one-stop-shop to get you all you need to make a difference in the life of your community.”
Next, he will implore state officials in Albany to continue their efforts to create early voting and same-day registration. On March 1, the city will start requiring elected officials to disclose whenever they meet with lobbyists.
“To strengthen a democracy, we’ve got to create more accountability for those in power,” de Blasio said. “It’s one of the things that gives people encouragement when they see that accountability. That’s why New York is leading the nation’s cities in lobbying disclosure requirements. The people deserve to know who’s trying to influence elected officials and their senior staff. This new and improved disclosure website, which went live yesterday, allows New Yorkers to search for which city officials are meeting with which lobbyists.”
Lastly, the mayor is seeking to make sure in the 2020 census that every city resident is counted.
“Given the Trump administration’s views of our rich diversity, we must work twice as hard to get a fair shake,” he said. “Tonight, I’m announcing ‘Get Counted,’ the largest census outreach campaign in our city’s history and we’re going to work with our partners and everyone in government, community leaders, private sector, faith organizations, anyone and everyone who makes sure, who wants to make sure that New York City is seen for all it is and that our people are counted in the eyes of our nation.”