Assemblyman Englebright: New Measures Will Make Voting Easier and Reduce the Influence of Special Interests in Politics

January 14, 2019

Assemblymember Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) announced that the Assembly has passed a package of seven bills to reform New York State's antiquated electoral process, to make voting easier and reduce the influence of special interests in elections.

"It's a good day for democracy in New York," said Assemblyman Englebright.  "Our vote to eliminate barriers will make voting more accessible to all state residents.  I support each of these reforms, and have voted to pass them in the Assembly every year since 2016.   This year is different because we now have senate partners who will join us in getting them to the governor’s desk".  

Among the bills is legislation establishing a nine-day early voting period, including two full weekends, for voters to cast their vote in person prior to any primary, special or general election.  Each county would be required to provide a set amount of early voting hours over the course of the period, but would have the flexibility to offer hours that best meet the needs of residents. This measure would go into effect immediately after being signed into law, and be in place for the 2019 General Election. 

Currently, voting by absentee ballot is allowed only if a voter 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 allow for "no excuse" absentee voting (A.778, Vanel).  As a constitutional amendment, this would be on the ballot for New York State voters no earlier than November 2021.

Also passing the Assembly this week was legislation that would combine the federal non-presidential primary and state primary.  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 eliminate the requirement that voter registration be completed at least ten days before Election Day.  This bill would allow registrants to register and vote on Election Day.  As a constitutional amendment, this would be on the ballot for New York State voters no earlier than November 2021.

The second bill would streamline the process by automatically transferring a voter's registration when they move within New York State.  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.

Also included in the voting reform legislative package is a measure aimed at promoting civic engagement among young people.  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.

And for the fourth time since 2016, the Assembly has passed legislation to restrict the LLC loophole which currently allows LLCs to make campaign contributions as individuals.

This measure will end the practice where one person or a corporation owns multiple LLCs that can be used to funnel donations to a single candidate or committee.  LLC campaign contributions will be limited to the same $5,000 aggregate contribution limit that exists for corporations. The bill 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 the 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 as well as allowing contributions above individual and corporate limits.

In summation, the voting reform package includes:

  • Adding nine days of early voting before the November election, including two full weekends (A.780, Lavine);
  • No excuse absentee voting (A.778, Vanel);
  • Combining the federal non-presidential primary and state primary, making voting easier for New Yorkers and saving millions of dollars statewide (A.779, Lavine);
  • Allowing voter registration on Election Day (A.777, Carroll);
  • Automatic transference of a voter's registration when they move within New York State (A.775, Dinowitz);
  • Requiring 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; and
  • Restricting LLC campaign contributions to the same $5,000 aggregate contribution limit that exists for corporations (A.776, Simon).

These bills passed both houses on Monday, January 14, 2019 and have been sent to the Governor.