Governor will push voting reforms for upstate, including expanded hours at polls

Posted 14 January 2019 at 6:15 pm

Cuomo proposes making Election Day a holiday

Press Release, Gov. Andrew Cuomo

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced proposals to ban corporate contributions and expand upstate voting hours on primary election day will be included in the 2019 executive budget.

This proposal is part of the Governor’s comprehensive reforms to modernize New York’s voting laws, which also includes ensuring that all New Yorkers have time off to vote on Election Day and online and automatic voter registration.

The New York State Legislature today is poised to pass key voting reform legislation the Governor included in his 100-day Justice Agenda, including early voting, no-excuse absentee voting by mail, same-day registration and synchronizing federal and state elections.

“At a time when the federal government is doing everything it can to disenfranchise voters, we are taking action to make it easier for New Yorkers to participate in the democratic process and crack down on corporate influences in our election,” Governor Cuomo said. “It is absurd that voters in much of upstate New York are not allowed to vote until noon, whereas polls open everywhere else in the state at 6 a.m. – that ends now. These proposals will not only modernize our voting laws, they will remove barriers that have prevented and discouraged voters from exercising their sacred right to vote. I thank the legislature for their quick action today in voting on many of the critical voting reforms that are part of our 100-day agenda and I look forward to working with them to finish the job and enact these additional measures into law in the budget. The time is now.”

To modernize New York’s voting laws, Governor Cuomo’s 2019 executive budget will propose comprehensive legislation that includes:

Voting before noon upstate: State Election Law currently prohibits poll places from opening before noon in primary elections only in upstate New York, creating unequal access to the polls across the state. New Yorkers everywhere are entitled to the same opportunity to vote, and this year New York will ensure that voting hours are extended for primary elections upstate to match those voting hours across the rest of the state.

Make Election Day a holiday: An inability to take time off of work should never be a barrier to voting. This year, New York will ensure that any New Yorker has time off to vote on Election Day.

Automatic registration: Today New Yorkers are given the opportunity to register to vote when interacting with State agencies and they must affirmatively ask to be registered. The budget will include a proposal to reverse that process and register eligible New Yorkers to vote unless they affirmatively ask not to be registered. Automatic voter registration will not only boost voter registration and turnout in this state, it will also strengthen our democratic process.

Online registration: Apart from DMV, there is currently no online option for voter registration in New York State. The budget will include a proposal to ensure automatic voter registration opportunities are available online, including allowing New Yorkers to apply to register to vote on the State Board of Elections website.

Ban corporate contributions: Corporate money has overtaken our election system. The executive budget will include a proposal to ban all corporate contributions, restoring the power to the people and helping to remove dark money and special interest influences in our democratic process.

Today, the New York State legislature is poised to pass the following voting reforms that were part of the Governor’s 100-day agenda:

“Closing” the LLC Loophole: The legislature’s bill would “close” the LLC loophole by limiting the maximum contribution of an LLC to a total of $5,000 annually, the same limit as corporations. The bill would also require the disclosure of direct and indirect membership interests in the LLC making a campaign contribution, and for the contribution to be attributed to that individual.

No-excuse absentee voting by mail: The New York State Constitution currently restricts absentee ballots to individuals who provide a qualifying reason, such as absence from the county on Election Day or an illness or disability. This unnecessarily prevents New Yorkers from being able to vote by mail for reasons other than those currently listed in the constitution, or simply for convenience. Amending the constitution to make absentee ballots available to any eligible voter, no matter their reason for wanting one will help make voting as accessible as possible.

Early voting: Enacting early voting will make voting more convenient for voters whose professional or family obligations make it difficult to physically get to the polls, as well as reduce waiting times and ease logistical burdens for poll workers.

Same-day registration: Voters are currently prohibited from registering to vote less than 10 days before an election and still being able to vote in that election. In today’s world with today’s technology, there is no policy or administrative reason to prevent voters from registering to vote on the day of an election. The budget will include a proposal to eliminate this outdated but formidable barrier to the ballot box.

Synchronizing federal and state elections: New York State currently holds separate primary elections for state and federal elections. With the addition of a presidential primary every four years and a general election, this means that in some cases New York is holding four different elections in a year. This can be confusing to voters and waste administrative resources. This year’s budget will seek to unify the federal and state primaries once and for all and ensure that voters only go to the polls once to choose their nominees.

Pre-registration for minors: New Yorkers are not permitted to register to vote unless they will be 18 years of age by the end of the year, and by the date of the election in which they intend to vote. The budget will include a proposal allowing 16 and 17-year-olds to pre-register to vote, meaning that a voter will automatically be registered on his or her 18th birthday.

Universal transfer of registration: When New Yorkers move to a different county, their voter registration does not move with them. This requires the voter to re-register with his or her new local board of elections as if he or she were registering for this first time. New York will propose legislation to ensure that when a voter moves elsewhere in the state, his or her voter registration will seamlessly go with them.

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