New York City Launches Video Voter Guide

Will provide free TV air time for candidates

by / April 25, 2005
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 printed New York City Voter Guide, mailed to all registered voters before the primary and general elections, and will provide the same information, as well as appropriate web links, on the Campaign Finance Board website."

The Video Voter Guide will be broadcast prior to the primary and general elections. Current plans provide for the candidates for one borough to be featured each weeknight, in the week before each election. For example, Monday may be Bronx Night and Tuesday could be Brooklyn Night. During the morning and daytime hours leading up to the election, statements by all candidates will be played on a continuous loop. All programming will be determined by lottery, and candidates will appear alphabetically and in order of the office they seek.

Candidates can begin obtaining information about participating in the Video Voter Guide program this spring and it is anticipated that statements will be taped this August.

"The City's Video Voter Guide program will point New Yorkers to know their candidates so that they will be good to go and vote," said VAC Vice Chair Jane Kalmus.

"This represents an opportunity to provide greater public access to information about local candidates," said Citizens' Union Executive Director Dick Dadey. "The City's Video Voter Guide could benefit voters' understanding of the choices before them on election day."

"I have long believed that local radio and television broadcasters have a duty to provide their local communities with significant information on the local political issues facing communities, the local candidates' campaign platforms and the local candidates' debates," said United States Senator John McCain. "The Video Voter Guide is an impressive step in that direction, and I applaud Mayor Bloomberg for his initiative to bring local back into local broadcasting."

The Video Voter Guide is a project of the Coordinator of Voter Assistance/VAC Executive Director, together with members of VAC, and in partnership with NYC-TV 74. NYC-TV 74 is the official network of the City of New York bringing New Yorkers a bird's-eye view of hearings and press conferences by local elected officials as well as Stated City Council meetings, and a variety of other programming focusing on New York City, its people, and the issues of the day. NYC-TV 74 is available to all cable subscribers in the five boroughs of New York City and is managed by the NYC Media Group.