Legislature passes major voting reforms

Seven bills are aimed at reversing New York’s historically low voter turnout

The Legislature on Monday passed seven bills that bring major revisions to the state’s elections system.

The bills, all passed by the Senate and Assembly on January 14, are expected to be signed by the governor. They will establish early voting and no-excuse absentee voting, modernize and expand voter registration, impose limits on LLC contributions, extend Primary Election voting hours and ensure uniform rules and regulations throughout the state.

New York consistently ranks as one of the worst voter turnout states in the nation, and lawmakers who support this legislation hope the new laws will change that.

“Government should be about breaking down barriers, which is why the Senate Democratic Majority is making it easier for those who are eligible to vote. We need more voices in our democracy, not fewer,” Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said. “Easing access to voting and having New Yorkers exercise their Constitutional right to have their voices heard shouldn’t be partisan or controversial.”

“Our democratic process is dependent on our ability to ensure New Yorkers are able to exercise their fundamental right to vote with ease,” said Assemblyman Charles Lavine, the chair of the Election Law Committee. “These bills will ensure accessibility and encourage participation in our electoral system, while bringing transparency to our campaign finance laws. Now more than ever, we need to stand up and protect our democratic process.”

The legislation passed on Monday includes: 

Early Voting
This bill, S.1102/A.780, introduced by Chair of the Senate Elections Committee, Senator Zellnor Myrie and Chair of the Assembly Election Law Committee Charles Lavine, will establish an Early Voting system to permit eligible voters in New York State to vote in person during a designated period.

Consolidation of Federal and State Primaries
This bill, S.1103/A.779 introduced by Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Assemblyman Lavine, will save taxpayer dollars and make state primary elections the same day as federal primary elections. It also ensures that New York State’s election law complies with the federal Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment (MOVE) Act.

Closing the LLC Loophole
This bill, S.1101/A.776, introduced by Senator Brian Kavanagh and Assemblywoman Jo Anne Simon, will amend Election Law to hold LLC’s to the same aggregate contribution limit of $5,000 that applies to corporations. The amendment would require the disclosure of the identity and proportion of ownership of all direct and indirect owners of the membership interests in the LLC. This legislation will also amend the Election Law to require all contributions made to political committees or campaigns by an LLC be attributed to each member of the LLC in proportion to the member’s ownership interest.

Same-Day Voter Registration
This bill, S.1048/A.777 introduced by Deputy Majority Leader Michael Gianaris and Assemblyman Robert Carroll, amends the constitution to remove the ten-day advance voter registration requirement, subject to second passage of the next legislature and approval by a statewide referendum.

No-Excuse Absentee Voting
This bill, S.1049/A.778, introduced by Senator Leroy Comrie and Assemblyman Clyde Vanel, will amend the state Constitution to allow for any voter to request to vote by mail without declaring reason subject to second passage of the next legislature and approval by a statewide referendum.

Voter Registration Transfers
This bill, S.1099/A.775, introduced by Senator David Carlucci and Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz, will require the Board of Elections to transfer the registration and enrollment of a voter to wherever they move in New York State.

Voter Pre-Registration
This bill, S.1100/A.774, introduced by Carlucci and Lavine, will enable 16- and 17-year olds to pre-register to vote and requires local boards of education to adopt policies to promote student voter registration and pre-registration.

 The League of Women Voters, which has been pushing for many of these voting reforms for years, celebrated what they called a “monumental achievement,” in one of the first major actions by the Legislature in the opening days of the new session.

 “Each of the reforms passed by the Assembly and Senate are huge advances to New York’s election procedures,” said Jennifer Wilson, the legislative director for the League of Women Voters New York State. “With these new policies in place, New York should no longer rank among the worst states in the Nation in voter participation.”

 Governor Andrew Cuomo is expected to signed these bills into law. Cuomo will also be promoting other voting reforms in his 2019 Executive Budget.

 His reforms include opening the polls before noon during primary elections statewide; making Election Day a state holiday; allowing voter registration online; and banning all corporate contributions to candidates.

Voters Guide
Photo courtesy of the Governor’s Office