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Editorial Note: This guest blog post was written by Mary Jenkins and Mary Lou Urban, Co-Presidents of the League of Women Voters of the City of New York.
It has been a busy and exciting election season for the League of Women Voters of the City of New York with three elections – a Primary, a Runoff and a General Election – in less than three months. This was an especially important election for New York City as we elected our first new mayor in 12 years. But even before voters started to cast their ballots, it was an especially long election season, so it was part of the New York City League’s mission to help sustain the interest of the voting public. We have been in the middle of all three elections, registering new voters, informing voters about the candidates and giving voters information to help understand the six statewide ballot propositions.
To reach new voters, we held numerous voter registration drives around the city, including at area high schools and our pinnacle registration drive on National Voter Registration Day at Bryant Park. We were pleased to be joined by the national League president Elisabeth MacNamara and our state president, Sally Robinson, as well as many other supporters including actress America Ferrera, the Senior Vice Chancellor for University Relations at CUNY (City University of New York), New York and our partner organizations, including Voto Latino, Jewish Association Serving the Aging, the Organ Donors Network and Rock the Vote. Presidents MacNamara and Robinson both spoke about the importance of voting and promoted the League’s online elections resource, VOTE411.org, while the newly appointed Executive Director of the New York City Board of Elections, Mike Ryan, also attended and spoke about his plans to bring the Board into the 21st Century including improving the font size on ballots, cleaning up voter registration rolls and working closely with good government groups throughout the process. Many of our partners also spoke and echoed the importance of voting and how it benefits all voters to participate in their government.
In addition to our successful registration drives, we also educated civic and business groups to conduct their own registration events by providing them with our Voter Registration Kit that helped explain some New York City specific voting issues. We also spoke to various interested groups around the city explaining the basics of the election and voting process. After the registration deadline passed, we continued to hold education sessions through our Lunch with the League meeting series.
We have also had a busy debate season, sponsoring prime-time debates on WABC for the positions of mayor, and comptroller. We also distributed many Ballot Issue guides, in English and Spanish, featuring information on the six propositions that were on the ballot. We moderated and cosponsored eight debates with the Manhattan Neighborhood Network (a public broadcasting station) for the Primary Election and six debates for the General Election. This was the first time we presented debates for the General Election giving voters new perspectives from third party candidates. In addition, we cosponsored debates in various public venues in the Bronx, and in Brooklyn to ensure voters across the city were able to hear from the Mayoral candidates. Our co-president Mary Jenkins participated in a Mayoral candidate forum sponsored by the Brooklyn NAACP in which she joined in the question and answer session.
All in all, it has been an exciting and productive election season for the New York City League. Our success in 2013 is sure to resonate into future election years. We look forward to continuing our debate and voter registration programs throughout the five Boroughs of New York City and working toward our core mission: encourage active participation in government through education.