by Peggy Sherman, IINYS Board Member – December 15, 2018

After reports of voters experiencing long lines and other issues on Election Day, editorial writers across New York State called for the enactment of early voting and other election reforms.  Incoming Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins has identified voting reform as an early priority for the 2019 legislative session.  But strong advocacy is still needed to achieve the right voting reforms next year.

Interfaith Impact is part of the Let NY Vote Coalition, which is building its network and action plan to achieve this result.  A December 1 meeting of the Let NY Vote coalition in Albany drew more than 100 activists, including three Interfaith Impact board members.  Nearly 300 activists are registered for a similar meeting in New York City on December 9.   Interfaith Impact and other coalition members submitted testimony for a November 15 Assembly public hearing on Improving Opportunities to Vote In New York State. (Peggy Sherman submitted testimony on behalf of IINYS. Ed. Note)

As an immediate action, Let NY Vote coalition members will meet with senators and assembly members in their district offices to ask for their commitment to voting reform.  The timing of these meetings is important, since majority caucuses in each house plan to meet in mid-December to discuss priorities for the upcoming session.

You can support this effort by calling your representatives in Albany to let them know that you want to see comprehensive voting reform as a top priority in 2019.  Find your representatives, talking points, and more info at LetNYVote.org/contact-your-rep. Also reach out to:

  • Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart Cousins 518-455-2585
  • Speaker of the Assembly Carl Heastie 518-455-3791
  • Governor Andrew Cuomo 518-474-8390

The Let NY Vote priority agenda includes the following reforms:

  • Early voting will make voting accessible for all eligible New Yorkers. The voting period should include at least 2 weekends and some evening hours, and funding for local boards of elections should be included in the bill.
  • Automatic voter registration should be implemented in a number of governmental agencies, not just DMV .
  • New York has the most restrictive deadline in the country. To be allowed to vote in a 2018 primary, voters had to register their party change in 2017. New Yorkers need the flexibility to change party affiliation that a later deadline would provide.
  • R estoring voting rights for people on parole needs to be codified in law, so restoration is automatic and does not depend on an individual taking the steps needed for a voting pardon.
  • New York is the only state with two primaries, which is confusing for voters and a waste of taxpayer money. Consolidating primaries for congressional and state offices, preferably on a date in June, is estimated to save $25 million per election cycle.
  • Same day registration would increase turnout and allow voters to correct inaccuracies or make changes in their voter registration when they go to vote. This requires a constitutional amendment.
  • New York needs readable, well-designed ballots. The Voter Friendly Ballot Act was drafted in consultation with specialists in the fields of graphic design, user experience, and disability accommodation.

Other election reforms include “no excuse” absentee ballots and pre-registration for 16 and 17-year-olds.