An open letter from George C. Onuorah, author of The Political Diary of a Rising Son.
REFORM THE NYC BOARD OF ELECTION NOW
The 2012 election in NYC taught us anything, the lesson would be that our Board of Election needs serious urgent reforms. Why? The reason is that unless we redress the anomalies we saw last November, we are in for some rude awakening with the next mayoral race around the corner. Personally, I had experiences that convinced me we need to do something now or never. I waited more than an hour to cast my vote. The lines where I voted were stretched long and tempers flared to almost boiling point. In the end, I decided that I should wait it out and exercise my democratic right. For more than a decade and half I have never failed to vote and I asked myself why should I now not cast my vote. Since young age, I have learnt not to be discouraged by the discouraging vicissitudes of any game. Many civil right leaders such as Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. fought for us to have the right to vote and we must not allow man-made obstacles and impediments to pull us back. Many who tried to vote in last election have different experiences and I am sure some may have given up and never voted.
Our elected representatives, civic and others must see the problem at our City board of election as endemic desiring of fixing. The New York City Council held a hearing yesterday seeking to address matter. Unless we fix it we are in for unexpected unhappiness at elections. We hear about working together or cooperation. Now this board of election issue is one that beacons those who want smooth and efficient democratic process. Democracy as we know it means and implies letting citizens vote and to have a say in who represents them. Therefore, not allowing all eligible citizens to vote runs counter to the Greek meaning of denying us universal suffrage.
Furthermore, many new and young voters get discouraged by a process that undermines their new enthusiasm for supporting leaders such as exemplified by President Barack Obama who challenged them like late John F. Kennedy in “Ask not what your country can do for you, Ask what you can do for your country”. The youth, the young and the newly enfranchised want a process that is ‘free and fair’ not one that is marred by inadequacies and inefficiencies’. We should allow democracy to rein.
While I am not a political expert, as a citizen and political scholar, I feel we can address some of the problems at last election by adapting the following measures.
- We can consider hiring election / poll worker from colleges, universities and other institutions of higher learning. By selecting from this caliber of workers adequate premium is placed on competence not mediocrity.
- Do away with politics as usual, reward competence and not political cronyism. Our party leaders as guardians and custodians of our democracy should understand that how disgruntled many felt and do something now. To procrastinate may not bode well for our democratic process.
- Finally, politics aside, the efficiency of our voting process might be a starting point for political cooperation between the parties who pay lip service to the concept of working together and yet fail to embrace it.
George C. Onuorah
Author, Political commentator and Civic Leader