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Common Cause celebrates Legislative session

STAFF REPORTS


NEW YORK -- Last week, the New York State Legislature ended the 2019 legislative session by passing a long-stalled Let NY Vote priority -- change in the party enrollment deadline -- adding to the coalition's historic victories in January and March, including passing and fully funding early voting, as well as pre-registration of 16 and 17 year olds.

"This entire legislative session has been an astounding victory for New York voters," said Susan Lerner, Executive Director of Common Cause/NY and founding member of Let NY Vote. "From early voting, to consolidation of primaries, to the change of party enrollment deadline, these groundbreaking reforms will streamline the way eligible New Yorkers vote, and empower a more robust democracy. We still have work to do, but our grassroots coalition is even more fired up than ever."

The Let NY Vote coalition - a statewide network of over 175 member organizations - has been demanding common sense voting reform in New York for years.
Let NY Vote's full list of wins in the 2019 legislative session:
  • Early Voting (enacted into law): in place in 37 other states and now New York, allowing citizens to cast ballots in person days, sometimes weeks, before an election.
  • Pre-registration of 16 and 17-year-olds (enacted into law): 13 states plus DC allow for pre-registration for voting at 16 and 17 years old. Pre-registration increases the likelihood of voter participation among young adults. Engaging potential voters at a young age and bringing them into the voting process early helps create lifelong voters.
  • Consolidation of Primary Dates (enacted into law): Currently New York has two primary days in June and September, confusing voters. New York is the only state with two primaries.
  • Vote by mail (passed in leg, requires constitutional amendment): No eligible voter should have to provide a reason to be able to vote absentee.
  • Same day registration (passed in leg, requires constitutional amendment): 18 states and DC have Same Day Registration. Same Day Registration enables voters to register and vote at the same time and increases voter turnout.
  • Flexibility to Change Party Affiliation (passed, Gov will sign into law): New York has the most restrictive deadline in the country, locking out hundreds of thousands of voters during the primaries. The change of party deadline must be shortened to allow people to make an informed decision.
What's left on the voting right's agenda:
  • Automatic Voter Registration: where registering to vote becomes seamless, electronic, and automatic. 16 states and Washington DC have already implemented some form of AVR.
  • Voting Rights for People on Parole: the restoration of voting rights for people on parole needs to be codified in law, so that restoration becomes an automatic process.
  • One Single Deadline for Voter Registration and Party Enrollment: Currently, there are too many deadlines for voters: one for a first time voter, address change, party affiliation, etc. These deadlines must be aligned to reduce confusion and streamline the process.
"Progress isn't possible without participation, but for too long New York made voting difficult. After an historic change election last fall, Albany heard New Yorkers' calls to reform our vote and ensure more voices participate in our democracy. Early voting and electronic poll books mean New Yorkers can now vote more flexibly and with fewer delays. Legislators also took the first big steps to win amendments offering no-excuse absentee voting and same-day registrations, ensuring red tape doesn't stand between you and your vote. This session lawmakers finally threw a lifeline to New York's floundering democratic process. We expect Albany to make good on promises to enact automatic voter registration early next session, which would mean getting your name on the rolls is a whole lot simpler," said Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union.

"For years, New York's backward voting laws have provided an easy talking point for vote suppressors in the South looking to justify their tactics," said Sean Morales-Doyle, counsel in the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice. "From the first day of the session until its last, lawmakers put an end to that, passing reform after reform. But New York can still do better, so we will hold them to their promise to act quickly on automatic voter registration next year."

"Asian American and Pacific Islanders, naturalized immigrants, and voters from communities of color turned out in record numbers to participate in November's election. After historic wins and a shift in power, our new state legislature opened with bold democracy reforms that bring New York's voting laws into the 21st century. It is now easier than ever before to access a poll site, read, and cast a ballot." said Amy Torres, Director of Policy & Advocacy at CPC The Chinese-American Planning Council. "These wins leave New Yorkers with a sense of deep gratitude, renewed hope, and importantly, hunger for more. CPC applauds Governor Cuomo and our champions in the Senate and Assembly for their victories thus far, and looks forward to working with them to soon restore voting rights for people on parole, achieve Automatic Voter Registration, and change party enrollment deadlines."

"At the start of 2019, New York had some of the most restrictive, antiquated voting laws in the country," said Paul Westrick, Manager of Democracy Policy at the New York Immigration Coalition. "Thanks to the tireless work of the Let NY Vote coalition, the many victories this year will fundamentally improve how New Yorkers register and vote, and ease the structural barriers causing lower participation rates of naturalized citizens. But the work isn't done. New York needs automatic voter registration and the legislature must commit to passing it at the earliest opportunity."

"Access to voting is at the core of democracy. New York made great strides, this session, to make voting more accessible. At Planned Parenthood we understand the critical role elections play in ensuring we have leaders committed to protecting health and rights. For this reason, we are proud members of the Let NY Vote coalition. We are excited by the progress made this legislative session, and we look forward to working with the legislature and Governor on future election reforms," said Robin Chappelle Golston, President and CEO Planned Parenthood Empire State Acts.

"The action taken by the legislature this session to modernize our democracy and make it easier to register and vote was truly historic," said Alex Camarda, Senior Policy Advisor at Reinvent Albany. "15 laws were signed related to elections and 33 more will be delivered to the Governor in the coming months for his consideration. Major advances include online voter registration, early voting, consolidated federal and state/local primaries, portable registration, pre-registration for 16-year olds but less attention-grabbing reforms like moving the Buffalo school board elections to November could benefit voter turnout."

"Citizens Union applauds the legislature and Governor for making protecting and expanding the right to vote a priority this legislative session. Historic steps were taken to reverse New York's regressive voting laws, and pass reforms to boost voter turnout and engage more New Yorkers in the electoral process. We want to thank Governor Cuomo, Senate Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Speaker Heastie, as well the many advocates statewide, for their hard work to revitalize democracy in New York State," said Betsy Gotbaum, Executive Director of Citizens Union.

"The first wave of long-awaited voting reforms enacted in 2019 begins the difficult work of modernizing New York's democracy, said Jarret Berg Co-Founder of VoteEarlyNY. While there is far more to do, we are already witnessing real progress securing voting rights and fair access for all eligible New Yorkers."


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