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Fixing New York's Elections

Fixing New York's ElectionsVoter reform is a serious issue for Tufts graduate Keith Wright, the head of a committee charged with bringing New York State’s election regulations up to par. New York City.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [06.03.04] Time is running out for the New York legislature on the issue of voter reform. Faced with the task of revising the State's election regulations by the end of June - or losing a quarter billion dollars in federal funds - New York lawmakers have a tough road ahead of them. But there is hope in the Empire State, as many are looking to local legislator and Tufts graduate Keith L.T. Wright, who leads the committee in charge of the reforms. His efforts, Wright says, represent "partisan politics at its best."

"In a statehouse characterized by perpetual legislative gridlock, Mr. Wright is the co-chairman of a bipartisan joint committee of lawmakers seeking to overhaul New York's election system," reported the New York Times.

Wright - who graduated from Tufts and then earned a law degree from Rutgers - is working to implement a nationwide voter reform mandate in response to the 2000 election controversy in Florida.

It's an issue close to the heart of the 49-year-old, who grew up in the shadow of poll taxes, literacy tests and other forms of discrimination towards black voters.

"I want to make sure people can vote, that they are enfranchised," Wright - whose mother took him to the March on Washington when he was nine years old - told the Times. "I definitely remember the bad old days. This had been my raison d'etre."

Despite more than 13 years of experience as the assemblyman representing Harlem - where his family has lived for six generations - implementing the reforms will be no easy task for the Tufts graduate.

"Wright, one of the Assembly Democrats on the task force, said that at the first meeting, he stood up and announced that the task force was ‘too pale and too male' for his comfort. He said that his suggestions were ignored," reported the Times.

But the Tufts graduate is optimistic that the committee can work out a compromise - especially with $250 million dollars of federal funds on the line if the state fails to come up with a procedure to improve the election system.

"I think it's resolvable," Wright told the Times. "Listen, we are in a field of negotiation and compromise."

The Tufts graduate - who also introduced a bill this year that would increase the pay of domestic workers - added, "At this point, New York can't afford to lose a dime."

Wright, who received a voter registration card as a present from his mother for his 18th birthday, says it wasn't the only lesson his mother gave him that was applicable to his legislative career.

"My mother always told me when you have homework, deal with the hardest stuff first, then deal with the easier stuff," Wright told the Times.

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