A Trailblazing Vote

Today is Election Day. Voters can find their poll sites by texting WHERE to 877-877.  With thousands of voters displaced by the storm, Governor Cuomo yesterday issued an unprecedented emergency order granting New Yorkers in disaster-affected counties the right to cast their ballot at any polling place in the state.  Cuomo’s order will allow registered voters in the city and Nassau, Rockland, Suffolk, and Westchester counties — all declared disaster areas — to show up at any polling place, sign an affidavit and fill out a ballot.  They won’t have to prove they were affected by the storm.

We encourage everyone to get to the polls and vote.  Hard to believe that when our country was founded, in most states, only white men with land or taxable wealth could vote. Through amendments to the Constitution and enacted legislation, every U.S. citizen now has the right to vote. Bold legislation changed social norms.

New York City has a history of trailblazing legislation that has changed social norms.  In 2002, New York City led the nation in passing the Smoke-Free Air Act, prohibiting smoking in workplaces including offices, bars and restaurants.  That was followed by bills restricting smoking in hospital entrances; and last year we made our parks, beaches and pedestrian plazas smoke-free.

While Big Tobacco and its supporters warned at every step that Mayor Bloomberg was creating a so-called “nanny state,” those regulations became self-enforcing social norms so quickly that it is hard to remember that they were controversial when first proposed.

When was the last time you breathed in secondhand smoke on an airplane or in the so-called “No Smoking” section of a restaurant?  Perhaps in the near future, we’ll look back and remember the pen that ran out of ink when we had to elect a president by filling in a circle on a paper ballot.

The NYC Coalition for a Smoke-Free City’s thoughts are with all New Yorkers as we emerge from hurricane Sandy.    At this difficult time, we are reminded of the great spirit and resiliency of New Yorkers.