Voting reform off the table in New York


The New York state legislative session ended in Albany on June 20 and, despite the push by a number of advocacy groups around New York and in Nassau County, a number of voting reform bills did not make it through.

Let NY Vote is statewide movement that has been pushing for voting laws that are similar to those of other states, including early voting and automatic registration.

“We are an example of an old and outdated system,” ” said Dan Fingas, a representative from Long Island Progressive Coalition, a coalition partner of Let NY Vote. He added, “Whether you are a firefighter working a 24 hour shift, a single mother working multiple jobs, or a student away at college; our current 1 day voting system just doesn’t work. We believe that more participation in elections will make us a better and more accountable state.”

The Senate did not pass five voting reform bills, including those which would allow early voting, automatic registration, flexibility to change party affiliation, pre-registration of 16 and 17 year olds and allowing those on parole to vote.

Governor Andrew Cuomo passed an executive order in April that granted those on parole the right to vote unless there is a specific reason why they could not. However, if Cuomo is unseated, the executive order could be reversed — unless it becomes a law, which would require the senate and the governor to vote on it.

Senator Jeffrey D.Klein, a democrat representing the parts of Bronx and Westchester Counties, sponsored a bill called S3304A that would enact automatic registration for NY residents. Senator Brian Kavanagh, who represents Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn, sponsored a bill called S7400A that would allow early voting, which would extend the time NY residents would have to vote during an election.

Because both bills, S3304A and S7400A, were stuck in the rules committee before last week.

At the moment, NY is one of 13 states that does not allow early voting. Also, in New York, in order to change political parties before the 2016 primary election, voters had to register a change six months before the election, before the candidates even solidified their campaigns. All other states have open primaries, or allow voters to change parties closer to primary elections.

“New York State remains woefully behind the rest of the country on voting rights,” Democratic Senator John Brooks said. “We must enact reforms to bring our antiquated voting laws and our democracy into the 21st Century. I will remain a staunch supporter for common-sense reforms like early voting and automatic voter registration.”

Because voting bills were not passed this year, it is no longer possible to have voting reform in time for the 2020 Presidential Election. In order to change the NY Constitution, two successive legislatures have to pass a bill.

“The soonest we could get no fault absentee now is the year 2021,” Jarrett Berg, the executive director of the NY Democratic Lawyer Council and a former Nassau resident, said. “By definition, [voting reform] can’t happen in time for 2020. That’s what our senate republicans guaranteed by running out the clock. That’s the story of the year.”