Friday, September 11, 2009

NYC Plan to Improve Voting System Includes Democracy Index

A program proposed by Yale Law Professor Heather Gerken to address problems in our nation's voting system is now a reality in New York City.

Professor Gerken’s “Democracy Index”is a key element in a plan Mayor Mike Bloomberg has introduced to improve New York City's election process. Called “Easy to Vote & Easy to Run,” the plan also includes a special voting hotline and calls on Congress to move Election Day to the weekend and to support the automatic registration of all eligible voters.

“For far too long, our election system has been plagued with antiquated rules and procedures that effectively limit its fairness and effectiveness,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “This plan will enable more New Yorkers to engage in the democratic process by making it easier for them to run for office and easier for them to vote.”

Professor Gerken, the J. Skelly Wright Professor of Law at Yale Law School, first proposed a Democracy Index commentaryLegal Times in a 2007 . The Index would rank states based on how well their election systems perform, assessing such factors as how long people had to wait in line to vote, how many ballots got discarded, and how often voting machines broke down.

Then-Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton both introduced bills supporting the idea, and Professor Gerken followed up with a book, The Democracy Index: Why Our Election System is Failing and How to Fix It.

She called the New York plan a sensational pilot project that will help surface and solve the problems that frustrate so many voters.

“Mayor Bloomberg has taken the lead in improving New York City’s election system with this impressive new election reform plan,” said Professor Gerken. “A New York City Democracy Index will help the City identify problems before they happen and ensure that every New York voter can have confidence in the election system. This first-in-the-nation index is destined to become a national model for other localities and states, and perhaps even the federal government.”