Assembly to Pass Legislative Package to Expand Voting Opportunities
May 15, 2017
Package includes measure to provide early voting period Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Election Law Committee Chair Michael Cusick today announced the Assembly will pass a comprehensive package of legislation this week to improve voter participation by increasing voting opportunities and facilitating and modernizing the registration process. "The Assembly Majority is committed to creating the most equitable election process possible for New York State voters," said Speaker Heastie. "That is why our legislative package includes measures to reduce registration burdens and increases voting opportunities so that everyone can make their voice heard." "Voting is one of the greatest civic responsibilities we hold as citizens and therefore, as legislators, we have a responsibility to protect and expand access to the ballot," said Assemblymember Cusick. "This legislation will ensure that voters are able to more effectively participate in the electoral process, and in turn, allow the government to better serve people." The package includes legislation that would give New Yorkers more opportunities to vote and greater flexibility in doing so. One measure would establish a seven-day early voting period for any registered New York voters to vote in person prior to any primary, special or general election day (A.2064, Kavanagh). Each county would be required provide a set amount of early voting hours, but would have the flexibility to offer hours that best meet the needs of its residents. Another bill would amend the New York State Constitution to allow no excuse absentee voting (A.7623, Vanel). Under current law, absentee voting is only allowed if an individual expects to be absent on Election Day, or because of physical illness or disability. These measures offer a more equitable voting experience by allowing busy New Yorkers more options for casting their ballots. Also included in the package is a bill that would make voting easier for New Yorkers, in addition to saving millions of dollars statewide for county boards of elections, by combining the federal non-presidential and state primaries to both be held in June (A.3052, Cusick). This legislation would also ensure New York's compliance with the Military Overseas Voter Empowerment (MOVE) Act and make voting more convenient for all New Yorkers by reducing the number of primary elections. Another measure in this week's legislative package is legislation aimed at promoting civic engagement among young voters. This bill would allow an individual who will be 18 years old at the time of a presidential election to vote in the primary election if he or she is 17 years of age (A.3549, Cusick). Other measures expected to pass this week would ease the process of voter registration for New Yorkers. Under the Voter Enfranchisement Act of 2017, New York State would modernize voter registration by establishing an online voter registration process (A.5382, Cusick). In addition, applications to state and local agencies would incorporate voter registration applications as a seamless process for voters and facilitate electronic processing and registration by the boards of elections (A.6283, Walker). Similarly, another bill would facilitate the voting process by automatically transferring voter's registration when they move within New York State (A.3411, Kavanagh). Under current law, voters who move within New York but move out of their current county or New York City must update their registration before the established deadline in order to vote. Additional legislation would help boards of elections recruit and retain essential staff by allowing election inspectors to split work days into shifts (A.6907-A, Hunter). During an election, polls are open an average of 16 hours, not including time needed for opening and closing the polls, and election inspectors are required to be present during this entire process. Lastly, the package includes legislation that would extend New York City's run-off election by one week to allow sufficient time to canvas, audit and test optical scanning machines following a primary election and adjusts several calendar deadlines and allows additional time for receipt of military ballots (A.7745, Carroll).