League of Women Voters, legislators push for voting reforms

Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins stands with Assemblywoman Pat Fahy, right, and Assemblyman Robert Carroll to advocate for updating New York’s voting laws. Gazette photo by Katherine Carroll






Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins, D-Yonkers, joined with members of the League of Women Voters of New York on Tuesday to call for comprehensive voting reforms.

Together with Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh, D-Manhattan, Stewart-Cousins introduced the Early Voter bill (A2064/S2950). Provisions of the bill include automatic voter registration as well as early voting up to eight days prior to all primary, special and general elections.

“One day is not enough,” said Stewart-Cousins, who is the Senate Democratic Conference Leader and the first woman to lead a conference in New York state history.

The bill comes as New York celebrates 100 years of women’s suffrage.

Addressing the younger members of the audience, including a number of Girl Scouts, Stewart-Cousins said, “You must fight for your democracy. You must fight for what we believe are our rights, because if we fight, we will not only be able to secure those rights, but be able to expand them.”

Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh is the Assembly sponsor of the bill A.2064. Gazette photo by Katherine Carroll

“If we want a functioning democracy, we need to have functioning voting procedures,” said Assemblymember Robert Carroll, D-Brooklyn.

Carroll joined the League of Women Voters in urging Gov. Cuomo for reform, calling the state’s current election laws byzantine in their obstruction of New Yorkers’ access to the ballot box. He credited this obstruction to New York’s remarkably low voter turnout.

According to the United States Election Project, New York ranked 42nd out of 50 states and D.C. with 56.2 percent voter turnout during the 2016 election. In the 2014 election, New York ranked 48th with only 28 percent turnout.

New York is also one of only 13 states that does not allow early voting and requires an excuse for an absentee ballot. 28 states allow early voting and no-excuse absentee voting, and Washington, Oregon and Colorado will automatically mail ballots to every eligible voter for every election.

New York is one of 11 states to hold closed primary elections, meaning that voters must be registered with the party for which they will be voting in order to be eligible. New York also has one of the earliest party registration deadlines, which often leads to difficulty in changing one’s party registration and obstructing their eligibility to vote in a primary election.

“The only way to change Albany, the only way to change Washington, D.C., is to make sure that people are able to vote. And for elected officials who are afraid of people voting, maybe they shouldn’t be elected officials,” said Carroll.

Although the bill has faced opposition from across the aisle, Stewart-Cousins said she is unsure why. “Every measure says that New York can do better,” she said.