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Editorial: Make it easier to vote in New York State

A voter marks his ballot via cell phone

A voter marks his ballot via cell phone light at the generator powered First United Methodist Church in Oceanside, New York. (Nov. 6, 2012) Credit: Getty Images

Desiline Victor, 102, the iron woman of November's presidential election, has a lesson for all Americans.

From North Miami, Fla., by way of Haiti, she waited in line for hours to vote last fall and inspired others to do the same. When she finally put on a sticker that declared "I Voted," her polling place burst into cheers, said President Barack Obama in his State of the Union address.

Her story makes two key points -- that the franchise is the backbone of all vibrant democracies, and that this crucial right is taken far too lightly by politicians in many states, including New York.

Victor, in Florida, had to make two trips to the polls before she could vote. And she was told she might have to wait up to six hours to cast a ballot, which is utterly outrageous.

Our system lives or dies on the strength of its participation, and a six-hour wait shoos off participants.

But New Yorkers hardly own gloating rights over Florida when it comes to elections. The Pew Charitable Trusts recently released a survey finding that New York ranks among the worst states in the country when it comes to running elections.

Joining us at the bottom of the heap in the 2008 and 2010 were Oklahoma, Alabama, West Virginia, California and South Carolina.

The Pew survey looked at indicators such as voter wait times, turnout, absentee ballots rejected, and availability of online registration.

While Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo asked for election administration reforms in his recent State of the State address, it's not clear he will get them soon. That's a pity. At the very least, the state should arrange for early voting, streamline online registration and make absentee ballots easier to use. There's no excuse for curating a system that keeps current players safe and makes new participants feel as uncomfortable as possible. Who are our state's leaders so afraid of?

Obama might be a better bet for hastening reform. In his State of the Union address, he vowed to appoint a commission to improve the nation's voting experience. "We can fix this," he said, and that's reassuring to hear.

At least somebody gets it.