Legislation proposed to combat long lines at polling locations

Photo of voters in line at a polling location. Legislative Gazette photo by Matthew Conradi.

The “Make Voting Easy” Act was proposed this past weekend by Senate Deputy Leader Michael Gianaris to expand and generate early voting sites in order to prevent long lines in the next election that currently force voters to wait hours.

Sen. Gianaris’ proposal requires one polling site for every 25,000 registered voters within every county in New York, according to a press release from the New York State Senate.

“Boards of Elections failed to adequately provide enough early voting opportunities this year. All over the state, people have been waiting several hours to vote, which is not what our democracy should look like,” Sen. Giarnaris said in the press release. “The current structure of our Boards of Elections has failed to fulfill its primary mission of facilitating voting. Drastic reform is necessary.”

Senator Zellnor Myrie, Chair of the Elections Committee, has chaired Senate hearings that took place after New York first allowed early voting in 2019. After this election, Sen. Myrie will continue to advocate for voting problems.

Earlier this year, the Board of Elections was questioned at a hearing chaired by Sen. Myrie, focusing on the issues of June primary elections.

“This latest failure has created large crowds for extended periods during a global pandemic, an outcome policymakers had tried to avoid,” the press release said. 

Sen. Myrie, according to a tweet from Oct. 27, waited approximately three hours to vote.

“I got on line at 12:30 p.m. and just got voted! Worth every minute of waiting for me (my mom, as a senior with arthritic knees, was done in 15 min),” according to the tweet. “Yes, we have work to do and y’all know I’m on it but today I wanna thank the poll workers and all the voters! #VoteEarly.”

Within New York City’s five boroughs, polling sites would almost triple in Queens, with 17 increasing to 48, the Bronx with 17 to 33, Brooklyn from 27-66, Manhattan from 16 to 48 and Staten Island from 10 to 13.

Last year, Sen. Gianaris did explain to the New York City Board of Elections that there were not enough early voting sites for the primary election in June. Although the number of sites slightly did increase, it did not stop Americans from having to wait hours to cast their vote.

Across the state, there are 12,971,543 registered voters. With this proposed legislation, early voting sites in New York state would increase from 279 to 515.

“At a moment when our democracy is on the ballot, it is imperative that our laws do more to make voting easier and more accessible,” Sen. Myrie said. “I am grateful to the poll workers diligently managing the extraordinary turnout this year, but we must do more. As we heard during our Elections Committee hearings this year, and as we are seeing on the ground across our city, there is clearly a need for an even greater expansion of early voting to ensure everyone has access to the polls.”