May 15 matters: voting

Congrats to those voters who  turned out to to elect new state representatives in special elections last week. Except for residents in the five  large-city school districts, the public next gets a chance May 15 to go to a polling place and do what many other countries don’t allow their citizens to do: vote.

It’s  more important than ever and if you doubt that, then why are big-moneyed interests trying to suppress voter turnout in this country?  They are behind the voter identification laws popping up in far too many states; laws that suppress voting by making it harder to vote. Even if you are a retired U.S. Marine. You may have seen reports like this one from the Brennan Center for Justice, articles like this one about a Wisconsin voter ID law being struck down,this report by a center for media and democracy, and this old but good roundup from the American Civil Liberties Union from last year?

Most chilling is the Brennan Center report that notes more than 5 million Americans might be stripped of their right to vote in the 14 states that have either passed new voter ID laws or tightened existing ones since the beginning of last year.

The good news is that New York is not one of them. In fact, there are only three requirements to vote on a school budget or for school board candidates in our state. You must be:

  1. 18 years of age
  2. Citizen of the United States
  3. Resident of the school district for 30 days preceding the election or budget vote
So, if this year is your first year to vote in your school district, congratulations; you should bring your birth certificate or driver’s license or anything that will attest to your age. And if you are new to the community, you should bring something that proves you’ve been a resident since April 15, like a utility bill or a rental receipt.
There are restrictions. New York’s election law does bar from voting those who have been found incompetent by a court and persons convicted of felonies who have not served their full sentence or who have not been discharged from parole for a felony conviction.
Next, here’s a reminder of earlier dates that matter before the May 15 school budget vote for all school districts except the five largest cities.
  • By April 20, school boards must have adopted their 2012-13 school budget.
  • By April 21, districts must submit the property tax report card to the State Education Department and the newspaper they designated at their organizational meeting for official notices.
  • Between May 1-8, districts must hold a budget hearing.
  • Between May 2-9, districts must mail to residents the notice of the school budget.
  • On May 15, districts must hold the public vote on the 2012-13 school budget.

So spread the word in the next seven weeks.

Voter suppression is not a laughing matter, but to go out on a lighter note, here Steven Colbert does his best in this take on how teachers try to destroy America by registering 18-year-olds to vote.

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