Persaud-Ortiz bill would provide voter registration to New Yorkers through tax filings

Legislative Gazette photo by Maria Enea

Assistant Speaker Felix Ortiz, D-Brooklyn, introduced new legislation (A.10230) that would give New York state taxpayers the option to register to vote when submitting their tax returns.

The legislation would also create additional security in elections by only allowing potential voters to register with the proper identification needed to file tax returns.

New York ranks in the low 30 to 40 percent in voter turnout, according to the bill memo. This legislation would present New Yorkers an additional opportunity to practice their constitutional right to vote.

The bill is sponsored by Sen. Roxanne J. Persuad, D-Brooklyn, in the Senate (S.8108) and co sponsored in the Assembly by Pamela Harris, D-Coney Island.

It would amend the current Tax Law and the Election Law in relation to requiring tax software to provide a link to voter registration websites. This includes all electronic income tax preparation software offered for sale or use in the state of New York such as TurboTax, TaxSlayer and more.

According to the bill memo, the United States is one of only a few democracies in the world where the government does not take responsibility for registering voters. Voter registration is left to partisan and nonpartisan voter registration organizations, political parties, election officials and active citizens. The bill memo says that “voter registration and turnout in New York state are neither complete or the lowest of the 50 states,” and credits the low voter turnout to the lack of responsibility on the state to register voters.

“We need common sense, reasonable laws in place that allow our citizens to participate and have their voices heard at the ballot box,” said Ortiz. “Whether it’s by expanding early voting or implementing online voter registration tools, there are many steps we can take to protect the fundamental right to vote.”

The legislation would be known as the “Representation through Taxation” bill and mirrors a similar bill recently passed in Minnesota where residents are now able to file their taxes through a state-approved electronic filing system that directly coordinates with tax service providers. Minnesota residents will then see a new prompt within the tax-return questions asking if they’d like to register to vote – much like the prompt introduced in the Representation through Taxation bill.

According to the bill memo, allowing voters to register through tax software has the potential to bring together conservatives who are concerned about fraudulent voter registrations and liberals who are concerned about anemic political participation.

The bill currently resides in the Senate’s Investigations and Government Operations Committee and would take effect 90 days after being signed into law.