Making Democracy Work


The Local Program Positions for the LWVNYS well as the LWVNYS links and blog.


Voter Registration Modernization: automatic voter registration and same-day voter registration, early in-person voting and no-excuse absentee voting, improvements to the way voters mark their ballots by better ballot design.

Campaign Finance:
a significant reduction of all contribution limits, special "pay-to-play" limits on contributions by lobbyists and those who do business with the state and eliminating the LLC loophole. The League also supports a small-donor matching public finance system.
Ethics: effective implementation and improvements of ethics laws, including monitoring the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE).
Legislative Reform: The League believes that the state legislature should adopt better methods for discharging bills and better use of the committee process.

Improved Access:
The League supports allocation of medical resources to underserved areas, healthy living promotion, disease prevention, school-based health services, women's health issues, long-term care, and adequate financing of the tobacco control program. The League supports a single-payer system. The League also supports measures for enhancing the safety of patients and staff in acute and long-term care facilities.

Streamlined court system:
The League supports a unified state court system, choosing judges on the basis of merit and continues to support improvements in the judicial selection process.
Statewide Guidelines for Law Enforcement: Support of adequate indigents' defense services, alternatives to incarceration and protection of children's legal rights. Juvenile justice should focus on rehabilitation rather than punitive action.

Energy and Climate Change:
the League supports legislation, regulation and executive action to protect natural resources, public health, and the economy from impacts of the fossil fuel industry and favors the development of renewable energy to meet emissions goals and slow climate change.
Hazardous Waste: the League supports the proper labeling and disposal of hazardous waste products and a ban on importing drilling and other "hazardous" waste from other states.
Electric Grid: the League supports financing for and creation of an electrical grid that facilitates the distribution of renewable energy to the maximum number of people, enabling locally generated electrical power from renewable sources.
Clean Water: The League has supported since 1970 the Clean Water Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act. The League also supports funding to clean up toxic waste dumps and segregate and properly treat hazardous waste on land and remediate polluted waterways in our state.
Agriculture: The League supports policies that protect food production and distribution while diverting food waste from New York's landfills, incinerators and other waste treatment facilities.

Greater Equity in Education Financing:
Past Campaign for Fiscal Equity court-ordered state aid increases should be funded, the property tax system should be reformed and the League opposes the Education Investment Tax Credit.

Fair Pay
: The League supports fair pay reforms, including passage of equal-pay-for-job- titles-of-comparable-worth legislation.
Paid Family Leave and Childcare: The League supports gender neutral paid family leave to care for a sick child, spouse, or parent. The League supports affordable, quality childcare, and compensation for childcare workers at a rate commensurate with responsibility and skill.
Domestic Violence: The League supports measures to reduce the incidence and effects of domestic violence. We also support protections against discrimination for victims of domestic violence and human trafficking.
Reproductive Choice: The League supports the constitutional right of privacy of the individual to make reproductive choices under its government position. The League believes that the federal constitutional protections of Roe v. Wade should be written into New York state law.

The Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA):
The League supports GENDA in order to protect transgender New Yorkers from discrimination.
Livable Wage: The League supports a living wage, based on our national position about meeting basic human needs.

Restore Public Trust

Below are the basic methods for restoring public trust that are agreed upon by groups that include the League of Women Voters of New York State, NYPIRG, Citizens Union, Reinvent Albany and Common Cause

Clean Contracting. Strict new accountability measures that would result in an open, ethical, and efficient way to award government contracts appropriations, an area which was identified as a key problem in the indictments of the governor's top aides.

Real Budget Transparency. Make lump sum budget appropriations and the resulting expenditures fully transparent.

Ban "Pay to Play." Strict "pay to play" restrictions on state vendors. The U.S. Attorney's charges that $800 million in state contracts were rigged to benefit campaign contributors to the governor and underscores the need to strictly limit contributions from those seeking state contracts.

Close "LLC Loophole." Ban unlimited campaign contributions via Limited Liability Companies. LLCs have been at the heart of some of Albany's largest scandals. Strict Limits on Outside Income. Real limits on the outside income for legislators and the executive branch. Moonlighting by top legislative leaders and top members of the executive branch has triggered indictments by the federal prosecutors.

Effective Watchdogs. Truly independent, effective, well-resourced, ethics enforcement agencies are needed.

Education Lesson Plans for High School Seniors

Teaching High School Students how to Engage in Politics: League of Women Voters and NYS Social Studies Supervisory Association Release Voter Education Lesson Plans for High School Seniors

The League of Women Voters of New York State's Education Foundation and the NYS Social Studies Supervisory Association (NYS4A) are pleased to announce the publication of seven lesson plans for teachers of the New York Grade 12 Participation in Government course. The goal of these lessons is to educate New York State's future voters to become active citizens. Students will develop a better understanding of how public policy is made in New York and learn more about their rights and responsibilities as citizens.

The seven lesson plans are designed to provide teachers and students with information specific to New York State. Lessons can be customized to meet the needs of individual classrooms or student interests and are designed to be inquiry-based and non-partisan. The lessons are based on the Key Ideas and Social Studies Practices of the New York State Social Studies Curriculum Framework. The lesson plans could be integrated into existing units or combined for a unit of instruction on New York government. With these lesson plans, Participation in Government teachers would have ready-made resources which will engage high school seniors.

Lesson topics include:
The structure of New York State Government
Individual rights and responsibilities in New York State
Voting in New York State
The Public Policy Process (Laws) in New York
Influencing New York State Government
Participating in Political Action in Your Local Community
Participating in Community Service in Your Local Community

In addition to materials in the lesson plans, teachers are encouraged to consult the Voter Services resources developed and published by the League of Women Voters New York. Updated voter services information, including voter rights, voter registration information, voting locations, find your elected official, and district maps, is available on the League of Women Voters New York website (

The lesson plans were written by three New York Social Studies teachers: Kathleen Argus, Syracuse City School District Jody Butts, Susquehenna Valley Public Schools Robert Keyser, Shenendehowa Central School District

and edited by Lisa Kissinger, Social Studies Academic Administrator, Shenendehowa Central Schools, and President of the New York State Social Studies Supervisory Association; Laura Ladd Bierman, Executive Director of the League of Women Voters New York and Jennifer Wilson, Director of Program and Policy, League of Women Voters New York.

Problems with Absentee Ballots

(condensed from a letter sent by Assemblyman Philip Steck to the LWVNYS Executive Director Laura Ladd Bierman)

"The Legislature passed absentee voting legislation in 1920. Unfortunately, the law as it currently stands in New York, allows for a qualified absentee voter to have their absentee ballot application and absentee ballot carried for them by an individual they designate, the ballot may be mailed to another persons home and it allows for the ballot application and the ballot itself to be filled out by another party. It only requires the signature of the other. All this has offered additional opportunities to corrupt the absentee ballot process. This corruption is very real. It is happening all over the State. Election insiders continue to constitute the greatest threat.

  • Absentee ballots are not counted electronically...they are canvassed by hand approximately two weeks after Election Day, thus delaying election results and creating opportunities for inconsistencies as to how the individual ballots are treated. (Errors could result from uncounted ballots)

  • In absentee voting, it is very easy to identify the voter and their chosen candidate through witnessing the public counting process. (Not a secret ballot)

  • "Ballot Mining" This process amounts to legal challenges to ballots candidates know are for their opponent. These challenges come in many forms, such as to the date or signature, inconsistencies or marks on the ballot envelope, ballots becoming unsealed in the mailing process, improper postmarking, etc. The most high-profile case of absentee ballot mining likely changed the outcome of the 2000 Presidential election.

"At the end of the day, voter turnout is low because people feel the government is dominated by big money and unresponsive to them. Responsive government is what increases turnout. When meeting with LWVNYS, it was expressed to me that no-excuses absentee voting will increase the voting opportunities for those who are low-income, thus increasing voter participation. This is the very reason why I support early voting and automatic registration. Having the poll open 7 days in advance, including a weekend, decreases long lines and allows those with challenging work or childcare schedules a convenient time to vote that automatic registration increases voter participation is self- evident."

NYS Campaign Finance System: Closing the LLC Loophole

New York State's Campaign Finance System and Closing the LLC Loophole
LLCs are Limited Liability Corporations.

reprinted from the LWV Buffalo Niagara Voter

Companies create LLCs for many business reasons. But for some companies one reason alone is paramount + the ability to pour huge amounts of money into the coffers of candidates, elected officials, and political parties, frequently without revealing the names of the donors.

In 1996 the New York State Board of Elections decided to treat LLCs as "individuals" under the state's campaign finance laws, with spectacular results. When considered as a corporation, as under federal law, an LLC could contribute up to $5,000 to an elected official, political party, or a candidate running for office; but when considered as an individual under NYS law, an LLC could contribute up to $60,800! If this was not a sufficient pot of campaign money to make recipients happy, corporations and businesses could create any number of LLCs, each with the same outrageously high contribution limit. Each additional LLC is then given a different name and the names of the original donors remain hidden.

LLCs are equal opportunity donors. All political parties, candidates and elected officials benefit from the seemingly endless generosity of LLCs.

In 2015 Glenwood Management, a huge real estate company that figured prominently in the criminal corruption trial of former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, created 22 separate LLCs, each with the ability to contribute the maximum amount to favored candidates and political parties. Another state corruption investigation that originated almost a decade ago, involving the Buffalo Billion, is unfolding now and demonstrates again how the LLC loophole works to benefit both donors and recipients at the public's expense.

We know from our Money In Politics study that quid pro quo corruption is difficult to prove. A wink and a nod can convey the intended message when money changes hands. Citizens are rightly suspicious when legislative favors are granted to certain interests and when constituent-supported legislation is defeated over and over or not even discussed in committee. The LLC loophole exemplifies a government failure in both fairness and transparency. Closing it is the goal of the League, of other reform groups and of many government officials.

Closing the LLC loophole through state legislation. In 2015 the New York State Assembly, with broad bipartisan support, passed legislation to close the loophole but the bill died in the Senate Corporations Committee chaired by Michael Ranzenhofer (Amherst).

This year the legislation has been reintroduced. The League strongly supports A.9758A (Simon) and S.27149 (Kavanagh) which will lower contribution limits to the federal level of $5,000 and require donor disclosure. The League urges members to call and write their legislators in support of the legislation + better still, come with us when we visit legislators in March and April 2018. Passage will occur only when enough citizens are alert to the problem and determined to correct it.

NY State League President Dare Thompson wrote, "Closing the LLC loophole is an obvious and long overdue fix to limit contributions by special interests and help end `dark money' in our electoral system. This one small step is just one of many reforms needed to reduce corruption in Albany."

Janet Massaro, Chair

The Power of Awareness

"Empowering All Through Education"

The League of Women Voters of New York State Education Foundation is the educational and fund-raising arm of The League of Women Voters of New York State which derives its strength from the energy and commitment of the women and men in about 60 local Leagues throughout the state. It is strictly nonpartisan, and works primarily on projects that enlighten the electorate i.e., empower through education.

The charitable support of individual people, corporations and foundations throughout New York State help us accomplish three central missions:

  • Educate people on the importance of their participation in government, in the political process and, most importantly, in the life of their home community.
  • Create awareness of the issues at the local, state and national levels and what average citizens can do to have an impact on their government.
  • Instill in young people and new citizens the knowledge of their role and responsibilities in managing their own government.

League of Women Voters of New York State

Capitol Beat Blog

The League of Women Voters of NYS is pleased to announce the return of "Capitol Beat." This informative and entertaining column, written by the LWVNYS Legislative Director Barbara Bartoletti will contain legislative updates about League issues, as well as political gossip. We will also outline the budget and of course, will chronicle the always-lively end of session. We have created a blog page for "Capitol Beat" on our League website, and we welcome your comments posted on this blog page. We have also linked the Legislative Calendar so you have all the dates of the legislative session. So, check out the blog and continue to watch it for updates - we hope to keep it lively and current. Get all the latest legislative info right on our website and blog!