Reinvent Albany Commends Assembly and Senate for Bringing Major Voting Reforms To Vote on Monday


Reinvent Albany Commends Assembly and Senate for Bringing Major Voting Reforms To Vote on Monday

New York to Bring Voting and Registration into Modern Era

Reinvent Albany strongly supports the voting reforms the Assembly and Senate are poised to pass on Monday.  Civic groups have sought these changes for decades and they will modernize the state’s voting experience and voter registration procedures.

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie on the The Capitol Pressroom radio show today detailed a sweeping Democracy package of bills to be passed imminently.  

The reforms will:

  1. Establish early voting.
  2. Consolidate the separate state and federal primary into one June vote;
  3. Allow pre-registration for 16 and 17-year olds.
  4. Begin the process of amending the constitution to allow same-day registration and no-excuse absentee voting (vote by mail).
  5. Make it easier for registered voters to change their address when moving within New York (portable voter registration).  
  6. Close the LLC loophole by capping the total campaign contributions annually made by limited liability companies at $5,000 and disclosing their members in campaign finance disclosure filings.  This is welcome first step towards comprehensive campaign finance reform but a state public matching program is essential.

Reinvent Albany strongly supports these reforms and provided comprehensive recommendations on these bills and other reform measures at an Assembly Election Law oversight hearing in December.  

“We commend the Assembly and Senate for moving first improvements to the voting and voter registration experience in New York,” said Alex Camarda, Senior Policy Advisor at Reinvent Albany.  “Monday will be a great day in Albany, something New Yorkers can truly be proud of. The upcoming vote marks the culmination of years of advocacy by numerous organizations, electeds and their staffs, and everyday New Yorkers who demanded a better voting experience.”  

The reforms identified by Heastie have long been supported by the Assembly, and we expect they will largely mirror bills they passed last year, which are outlined below:

Early Voting

A.9608-B (Lavine) establishes early voting in New York, enabling New Yorkers to vote for 10 days up through the Sunday before Election Day, including two weekends and weekday evenings.  Each county will have at least one early voting site and as many as 7 depending on the population of the county, with boards of election having discretion in determining where voters can vote early.  Thirty eight states already have early voting.

Consolidated State & Federal Primary Elections

A.3052 (Cusick)/S.3562 (Stewart Cousins) sets a June primary date for both federal and state elections which will increase voter turnout while saving New York State $25 million.  New York is the only state in the nation that has separate federal and state primaries.

Pre-Registration for 16 and 17-year olds

A.1687 (Mosley)/S.4440 (Montgomery) enables 16 and 17-year olds to pre-register to vote so when they turn 18 years old their registration will automatically be activated.  This enables schools, parents and community organizations to formally and informally engage young people to register to vote.

Portable Voter Registration

Portable vote registration relieves registered voters of the requirement to re-register if they move out of their county, much like the New York City Board of Elections currently does for New York City registered voters who move from one borough to another.  The state or county boards of elections will presumably check the national change of address registry and automatically update a voter registrant’s address. The voter will not have to proactively change their address by submitting a voter registration form to the Board.

Same-Day Registration- Constitutional Amendment

A.10420 (Lavine)/S.2478-A (Gianaris) amends the state constitution to repeal the requirement that voters register at least 10 days prior to Election Day.  This is the first step in enabling unregistered New Yorkers to register and vote on Election Day if they are eligible. The legislature seated in 2021-2022 must pass this constitutional amendment again, and the voters must approve it on the ballot.  The earliest this law will go into effect is in 2021. A companion statute will also need to be passed to define how same-day registration will be administered. Same-day registration is the law in 18 states and the District of Columbia.

No-Excuse Absentee Voting (aka Vote by Mail)- Constitutional Amendment

A.7623 (Vanel)/S.840 (Comrie) amends the constitution to allow no-excuse absentee voting by mail.  By removing constitutionally required excuses like being ill, acting as a caretaker, or not being in the county on Election Day, voters will be able to vote by mail for any reason.  Like same-day registration, the earliest no-excuse absentee voting will go into effect is in 2021 after the next legislature passes the same constitutional amendment again, and the voters approve it on the ballot.  The legislature will also have to pass a statute to define how vote by mail will work. Twenty eight states and the District of Columbia have no-excuse absentee voting.

Closing LLC Loophole

A.9758 (Simon)/S.7149 (Kavanagh) “closes” the LLC loophole by limiting each LLC to a total of $5,000 annually in contributions.  While Reinvent Albany prefers a ban on corporate contributions as supported by Governor Cuomo and is law in New York City, this is a substantial improvement over the unlimited contributions LLCs can currently make.

While this Democracy package is broad and sweeping, New York State can still benefit from other voting reforms like online voter registration and passage of the Voter Friendly Ballot Act (A. 9607 (Lavine)/S.7538-A (Kavanagh)) to improve ballot design.  Lastly, closing the LLC loophole is a good step forward on campaign finance reform, but only a public matching system changes the way candidates raise money, empowers everyday New Yorkers and meaningfully curbs undue influence.