Wednesday, April 21, 2010

"We want the right to vote in the primaries!" Youth Submit Open Letter to NYC Charter Revision Commission

Letter Signed by 1,084 Voters Under the Age of 30 Calls for Nonpartisan Elections


Brooklyn, NY—An open letter to the New York City Charter Revision Commission signed by 1,084 city residents under the age of 30, was presented at the Commission’s hearing at St. Francis College in Brooklyn yesterday. The letter calls for the Commission to place an initiative for nonpartisan elections on the ballot.

The letter states in part:
“We do not have the same level of commitment or connection to political parties that many in older generations do. Increasingly, we identify as independents and do not feel we should be excluded from the first and often critical round of primary voting.”
The letter was presented by Bryan Puertas (age 25, Queens), Franceli Chapman (age 23, Bronx), Laiza Garcia (age 27, Brooklyn) and Tracey Thomas (age 21, Brooklyn) whose joint testimony sparked several Commissioners probe the issue of open primaries and the political involvement of youth in follow up questions. Their dialogue can be viewed online.

The open letter had been circulated over the course of the last week at high school and college campuses in all 5 boroughs including:
Baruch College
Borough of Manhattan Community College
Bronx Community College
Brooklyn College
College of Staten Island
Frank Sinatra High School
Hostos Community College
John Jay College
St. Francis College
St. John’s University.

The presenters of the letter testified that nearly 900,000 voters in New York City are not registered in either the Democratic or Republican parties. Of those 751,442 are not registered with any political party and 25% are under the age of 30. The make-up of young independents is racially diverse with 20% African America, 24% Latino and 11% Asian.

“More and more young people are identifying politically as independent, but independents are not allowed to vote in New York City primaries” said Bryan Puertas who led the signature gathering effort. “That means more and more young people are being excluded from the process. We can turn that around by adopting what most major cities around the country already do-- hold nonpartisan elections.”

The Charter Revision Commission, which is chaired by CUNY President Matthew Goldstein, held public hearings in each borough during the month of April and expected to hold a series of issues forums in May.

A copy of the “Open Letter to the 2010 Charter Revision Commission” reads:

We the undersigned are residents of New York City.
  • We are under the age of thirty. We do not have the same level of commitment or connection to political parties that many in older generations do. Increasingly, we identify as independents and do not feel we should be excluded from the first and often critical round of primary voting. 
  • We ask the Charter Revision Commission to put a proposal before the voters to change our primary election system to a nonpartisan system of elections. This system allows all candidates to appear on the same ballot in the first round of voting and allows all registered voters to vote in that round. The top two vote getters would then appear on the November ballot. This type of system is employed in most major municipalities throughout our country and it is time for New York City to catch up. 
  • 897,180 voters in our city are not registered in either the Democratic or Republican parties.
  • 751,442 of us are unaffiliated with any political party
  • 25% of those unaffiliated voters are under the age of 30.
  • 20% of us are African American
  • 24% of us are Latino
  • 11% of are Asian American
We want the right to vote in the primaries for City Council, Mayor, Public Advocate and Comptroller. We want to participate in deciding what candidates what candidates will be on the ballot in November. We should not have to join a political party in order to exercise our democratic rights.

For more information, contact: Sarah Lyons at 212-962-1824 and see VIDEO of testimony at HanksterTube/NYC Charter Revision 2010.

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