Assemblymember Yuh-Line Niou’s Testimony before the Public Campaign Financing Commission

The current system of pay-to-play politics in Albany cannot continue any longer. New Yorkers everywhere have lost faith in our democracy because of the influence corporations can have on our elections and legislative process. The only people legislators should be accountable to is our constituents and the people of New York.

Public financing is a real, viable system that can fight back against corruption and send a message to our constituents that their voices matter. It empowers the communities that we should be representing in Albany. It encourages individuals to participate in elections through small-dollar donations. It helps level the playing field and provides people of color and women the opportunity to fairly fund campaigns and win.

We need to unrig the system and restore trust in our democracy. Elect the best representative to office, not whoever happens to be the most well-connected to special interests.

This all starts with passing a public financing program which must include at least a 6-to-1 match on small donations for both primary and general elections, an independent enforcement unit and lower contribution limits.

New York’s system of fusion voting must also remain untouched.

Fusion voting has been part of New York elections for centuries because it works. While fusion voting has been challenged multiple times, the State Court of Appeals has blocked all of those attempts, and ruled that voters have a Constitutional right to vote for the candidate and the party of their choice.

Fusion voting and a public financing system are two separate issues. There is no reasonable or genuine public policy rationale for linking these two issues. There is no public demand among our constituents to ban or weaken our fusion voting system. The Commission was formed in response to our communities calling for an end to the dominance of big money and pay to play culture in New York State politics. Private citizens and elected officials nationwide alike are fighting for the continued implementation of fusion voting.

Banning fusion is contrary to the commission’s goal which is to strengthen and expand our democracy by establishing a system of low-dollar, public financing of elections and reducing the power of big money in politics. In fact, fusion voting works hand-in-hand with democracy. Not everyone’s beliefs and priorities fit neatly into the Democratic or Republican party box. Citizens who support a “third” party should still be able to vote for who they think best represents them in any given election. Fusion voting ensures that our voters always have a voice in our elections and an impactful vote.

New Yorkers should have the best system for choosing who represents them and the best system includes fusion voting and a strong public financing program.

I urge the commission to implement a strong public funding system and leave fusion voting untouched. These two important political systems work together to amplify the voices of everyday New Yorkers in our political process. With our democracy at risk each day in this federal climate and after Citizens United, it is crucial, now more than ever, to ensure our electoral system works for the people.