On Wednesday, New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg announced the City's Video Voter Guide, a nonpartisan initiative that will provide free TV air time for candidates that will reach 1.7 million households citywide during an election cycle.
Candidates who are on the ballot for citywide, borough-wide and City Council offices will be extended the opportunity to appear on NYC-TV 74 to present campaign statements to residents.
New York City Voter Assistance Commission (VAC) Chair Dr. Jeffery F. Kraus, VAC Vice Chair Jane Kalmus, Voter Assistance Coordinator/VAC Executive Director Onida Coward-Mayers, NYC -TV 74 General Manger Arick Wierson, Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications (DoITT) Commissioner Gino Menchini, Citizens' Union Executive Director Dick Dadey and Special Counsel to the Mayor Anthony Crowell joined Mayor Bloomberg to announce the effort to better inform New Yorkers about their choices in elections.
"In announcing the Video Voter Guide, we continue to focus on improving voter access to information and encouraging greater voter participation in elections and government," said Mayor Bloomberg. "In 1989, New York City became one of the first cities in the nation to produce a printed nonpartisan Voter Guide, which is mailed to every registered voter. In 2001, the Voter Guide became available online. Today, the Video Voter Guide shows how we can use technology to provide New Yorkers with an important service - at very little cost."
As with its companion, the City's printed Voter Guide, candidates who are on the ballot will be asked to prepare statements that convey their platforms. The City's Coordinator of Voter Assistance will soon initiate the rule-making process that will allow public input on the rules governing the Video Voter Guide program. Currently, the program proposes to grant candidates for City Council up to two minutes to make a statement; candidates for Borough President will be provided up to three minutes to make a statement; and candidates for citywide offices of Mayor, Comptroller, and Public Advocate will be provided up to four minutes to make a statement. Candidates will be given two opportunities to tape their message. Candidates are free to present their statement in the language or languages of their choice. The City's printed Voter Guide will continue to provide voters with candidate statements in English, Spanish, and in some districts Chinese and Korean. Additionally, the Campaign Finance Board will provide a media link from its online print voter guide that will allow users to watch the Video Voter Guide.
"Exercising one's right to vote is the cornerstone of our democracy. For citizens to make informed choices, we need access to information about candidates," said VAC Executive Director Onida Coward-Mayers. "The Video Voter Guide creates a new opportunity for citizens to learn about candidates with their own eyes and ears, and to do so in the comfort of their own homes. We believe that this exciting new project will empower citizens, assist candidates, promote a more involved electorate, and strengthen our democracy."
"The real beneficiaries of the Video Voter Guide are everyday New Yorkers," said NYC TV and NYC Media Group General Manager Arick Wierson. "We're giving voters easier access to the candidates and what they have to say."
"The New York City Campaign Finance Board welcomes all efforts to increase voter awareness of and participation in local campaigns," said Campaign Finance Board Executive Director Nicole Gordon. "The more that public outlets are available to candidates to reach the voters, the better. The Board will inform voters about these efforts of the Voter Assistance Commission in the Board's