EDITORIAL: Election reforms need reform

Existing reforms don't go far enough to ensure fair elections

What good are election reforms designed to prevent fraud and corruption if they don’t fully prevent fraud and corruption?

Our entire system of government depends on fair and honest elections.

There should be no halfway when it comes to keeping big money out of our elections.

The impact on our daily lives of this kind of influence is government that works against the poor and middle class, that shifts the financial burden for social programs and security and infrastructure disproportionately onto regular taxpayers, that creates legislation that favors corporations and wealthy individuals to the detriment of consumers, and that directs taxpayer money to areas not where it can do the most good, but to where it can most help the influence peddlers and their enablers in government.

A new report by the New York City Bar Association highlights the shortcomings of the enforcement policies of the state Board of Elections. Those include sporadic enforcement of election violations, loopholes and weak penalties that do little to discourage improper behavior, and inadequate transparency.

To tighten up enforcement and to help restore the public’s faith in their elections, the Bar Association came up with several recommendations.

The association is calling upon lawmakers to remove some of the impediments to oversight faced by the chief enforcement counsel, which has sole authority with the state Board of Elections to investigate state Election Law violations.

That includes revising the current administrative hearing process for imposing civil penalties to give a hearing officer or the Board of Elections power to make a final determination of a penalty and replacing the current analysis of violations with higher standards.

The association also calls for more streamlined procedures for enforcing routine violations, to help streamline cases and provide predictable and “swift consequences” to election violations.

Lawmakers also should establish more comprehensive civil penalties to ensure that the consequences for unlawful conduct have enough weight to be a deterrent.

Finally, the association wants more transparency in enforcement activities, including more specific reporting of candidate and committee violations.

These are relatively quick and easy fixes that could help restore integrity to the election process and rebuild the public’s trust in fair elections.

That’s the least the citizens deserve.

Categories: Editorial, Opinion

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