Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Election Law Committee Chair Charles Lavine announced that today the Assembly passed a seven bill package of legislation to reform New York State's antiquated electoral process, expanding New Yorkers' access to the polls and bringing more transparency to campaign finance.
"The Assembly Majority is committed to making it easier, not harder for New Yorkers to exercise their constitutional right to vote," Speaker Heastie said. "I am proud that we have once again passed these reforms to expand access to our democratic process and make our electoral system more transparent. I look forward to seeing these bills finally make it through the Senate and be signed into law in New York State."
"Our democratic process is dependent on our ability to ensure New Yorkers are able to exercise their fundamental right to vote with ease," Assemblymember Charles Lavine said. "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 Assembly Majority believes that every registered voter should have ample opportunity to get to the polls. Legislation passed today will ensure voters' access to the ballot box by establishing a nine day early voting period, including two full weekends, for voters to vote in person prior to any primary, special or general election day (A.780, Lavine). Each county would be required to provide a set amount of early voting hours over the course of the nine day period, but would have the flexibility to offer hours that best meet the needs of its residents. This measure would go into effect immediately, and be in place for the 2019 General Election.
Under current law, absentee voting is only allowed if an individual expects to be absent on Election Day, or is unable to get to the polls because of physical illness or disability. An amendment to the New York State Constitution included in this legislative package would continue expanding accessibility to the polls to allow no excuse absentee voting (A.778, Vanel). This measure offers a more equitable voting experience by allowing busy New Yorkers more options for casting their ballots. As a constitutional amendment, this would be on the ballot for New York State voters no earlier than November 2021.
"Restrictions on absentee voting only make it harder for New Yorkers to have their say in government, and it is time to end that practice," Assemblymember Clyde Vanel said. "I am proud that today we will eliminate these absentee eligibility requirements and make it easier for voters to cast their ballot."
Other legislation passed today would combine the federal non-presidential primary and state primary, making voting easier for New Yorkers and saving millions of dollars statewide (A.779, Lavine). The combined federal and state primary would be held in June. The measure would also ensure New York State's compliance with the federal Military Overseas Voter Empowerment (MOVE) Act. This would take effect immediately.
Included in the package are two bills aimed at streamlining the voter registration process. The first is a constitutional amendment that would allow for Election Day registration (A.777, Carroll). This bill would allow New Yorkers to register to vote on Election Day, ensuring every voter can exercise their constitutional right to vote. As a constitutional amendment, this would this would be on the ballot for New York State voters no earlier than November 2021.
"The easier we make it for New Yorkers to vote, the stronger our democracy is," Assemblymember Robert C. Carroll said. "By allowing same day registration, we make sure that eligible voters are not left out of having their voices heard on Election Day. This amendment will ensure New York's elections are open to all eligible voters and that arbitrary time restraints no longer impede someone from registering and voting on the same day."
The second bill would streamline the process by automatically transferring a voter's registration when they move within New York State (A.775, Dinowitz). This would take effect 60 days after the measure is signed into law. 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.
"Moving is already a hassle, we should not make New Yorkers jump through additional hoops in order to vote in their new residence," Assemblymember Jeffrey Dinowitz said. "My bill eliminates one of those hoops by automatically transferring their voter enrollment and registration to their new home when they move within the state."
Also included in today's legislative package is legislation aimed at promoting civic engagement among young voters (A.774, Lavine). This bill would require voter registration forms to include a space for pre-registering applicants at least 16 years of age; and require local boards of education to adopt policies to promote student voter registration and pre-registration in high schools. This would go into effect on January 1, 2020.
The Assembly Majority is dedicated to ensuring transparency in New York State's elections. That's why, for the fourth time since 2016, the Assembly has passed legislation to restrict LLC campaign contributions to the same $5,000 aggregate contribution limit that exists for corporations (A.776, Simon). The bill, which would go into effect seven days after being signed into law, would also require the disclosure of all direct and indirect owners of the LLC and that all contributions by an LLC be attributed to each member in proportion to each member's ownership interests. Under current law, as interpreted by the State Board of Elections, a single individual is allowed to make multiple large contributions to the same candidate or committee through separate LLCs, making it difficult to determine who made the contributions and evaded individual contribution limits.
"We should not be allowing the wealthy and special interests to anonymously pour unlimited amounts of money into campaigns in the hope of influencing preferred candidates," Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon said. "In the Assembly Majority, we have repeatedly passed this critical campaign finance reform bill. New Yorkers deserve transparency and fairness in the electoral process and finally closing the notorious LLC loophole is an important step forward."