Editorial Memo: Lawmakers Should Including Funding for Early Voting in the 2018 State Budget
NEW YORK, NY (02/08/2018) (readMedia)-- TO: Editorial Boards
FROM: Let NY Vote coalition
DATE: February 2018
RE: Lawmakers Should Including Funding for Early Voting in the 2018 State Budget (also see attached)
New York State has one of the most antiquated voting systems in the nation. As a result, we continue to rank 41st in voter turnout. We need early voting now to increase voter participation and provide equal and fair access to our elections for all eligible voters.
Thirty-seven other states have some form of early voting allowing working people, parents with childcare duties, seniors, and people with disabilities greater access to the polls. Over three dozen national organizations have sent a letter to the Governor expressing their support, and pointing out that when voting rights aren't defended in New York other states to cite New York as a reason for not pursuing election reforms.
Governor Cuomo included early voting in his Executive Budget, but without any funding for it. His proposal would allow for 12 days of early in-person voting throughout New York State. County boards of election will have the flexibility to decide their polling hours and poll site locations. Unfortunately, the Governor has not included funding for implementation, which would cost $6.4 million according to his estimate- a fraction of the total $168 billion budget. That's an inconsequential price to pay for a consequential democracy.
The Governor and New York State legislators have the opportunity to enact early voting and include funding for implementation in the final budget. The LetNYVote coalition is urging Governor Cuomo to commit to including at least $6.4 million in funding for early voting in the 30-day amendments due on February 15th.
Benefits of Early Voting
Early voting gives voters the freedom to vote at their own chosen time. It is a non-partisan, popular proposal; 65% of New Yorkers support some form of early voting according to a recent Siena College poll.
A Brennan Center report of states that allow early voting found that election administrators in all states agreed that early voting makes Election Day a much smoother and more organized process. The study highlighted the following benefits of early, in person voting:
? Less stress on voting systems. Administrators agreed that early voting leads to fewer errors on Election Day because of the decreased number of voters at the polls on that single day. It also allows election officials to identify and troubleshoot problems in advance of Election Day.
? Shorter lines on Election Day. This is a major issue in New York City and some larger upstate cities. Having additional days to vote will make a significant difference in those areas.
? Improved poll worker performance. Now that New York State has allowed for split shifts for poll workers, there will be an even greater pool of potential poll workers for early voting, helping to alleviate same day stresses.
? Early identification and correction of registration errors and voting system glitches. This is a big area of concern for many election officials and legislators. States with early voting reported that they were able to catch errors more easily, particularly when their voter rolls were updated each evening after the polling locations closed.
? Greater access to voting and increased voter satisfaction. With fewer lines, better administration, and more flexible hours, New York State should see an increase in voter turnout and voter satisfaction.
Early voting has widespread bipartisan support across the country. Most early voting states that don't vote by mail lean Republican: 14 are red, 11 are blue, and 9 are purple.
The Republican governor of Massachusetts has called it a "big success."
Republican officials in Florida supported expanding early voting to ease long lines. The bipartisan Presidential Commission on Election Administration recommended early voting as a way to reduce congestion, ease operations on Election Day, and save money and staff time. The report noted a "bipartisan consensus" among election administrators that early voting is helpful for officials and for voters.
In a state as heavily dependent on public transportation as New York, early voting is a must to ensure that the millions of New Yorkers who rely on the MTA, Metro North and LIRR are not barred from the ballot due to train delays and malfunctions. In recent years, unimaginable occurrences such such as Superstorm Sandy and 9/11 have also interfered with both Election and Primary Days.
New York State has waited long enough and the voters deserve action. We can not continue to operate with outdated voting procedures. If the Governor and Legislature do not include early voting in the 2018 budget, counties will be stuck with the bill should it pass later in the session. Well run elections are key to an effective democracy, and deserve and need to be funded adequately. New York State needs to enact proven, practical reforms to increase voter participation and ensure everyone has the opportunity to vote.
* * * * *
For more information, please contact: LetNYVote -
Common Cause New York – Susan Lerner, firstname.lastname@example.org, 212.691.6421 ?
NATIONAL GROUPS' LETTER
January 12, 2018
Dear Governor Cuomo,
We, the undersigned national organizations, urge you to follow through on your stated goal of including Early Voting funding and legislation in the 2018-19 state budget, as the first step towards giving all eligible New Yorkers the freedom to vote.
Alarmingly, in our country it is still the case that our elections have too many missing voices due to racial and class barriers. While the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 were two hard fought successes of the civil rights movement, rules that undermine fair voting practices and put eligible voters at risk have only taken new forms over time. New York's failure to modernize its elections harms voters instead of helping them.
As we approach this year's observance of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day on January15, we are mindful that one of Dr. King's biggest commitments was to remove barriers to every step of the voting process. But in New York, outdated voting rules discourage voter participation and help reduce voter turnout. We are encouraged by the possibility that passing Early Voting funding and legislation in the 2018-19 New York State budget can help change that.
Modernizing New York's elections will not only benefit New Yorkers but will make the work of protecting the right to vote throughout the country easier. When voting rights aren't defended in New York, it makes it that much harder to protect eligible voters in North Carolina, Alabama, and Ohio. We know it is your goal that New York should be a guardian of core democratic values and a model for the rest of the country. But because New York hasn't adopted simple voting reform measures, it's easy for other states to cite New York as a reason for cutting back or repealing voting rights legislation. And, in fact, states like North Carolina and Ohio do point to New York as an excuse for their own voter suppression measures.
We urge you to do everything in your power to remove unnecessary barriers to voting for New Yorkers and include Early Voting funding and legislation in the 2018-19 state budget.
The Leadership Conference for Civil and Human Rights
Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law
ACLU Voting Rights Project & NYCLU Voting Rights Project
NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, Inc.
National Action Network
National Association of Latino Elected and
Appointed Officials (NALEO) Educational Fund
Service Employees International Union (SEIU)
AFT-American Federation of Teachers
CWA District One
Rock the Vote
Hip Hop Caucus
The Student Public Interest Research Groups
National Education Association
Fair Elections Legal Network
Campus Vote Project
Asian and Pacific Islander American Vote
Rural Coalition/Coalición Rural
National LGBTQ Task Force Action Fund
Unitarian Universalist Association
National Council of Jewish Women
Friends of the Earth US
National Resources Defense Council
League of Women Voters of the United States
The Brennan Center for Justice
People For the American Way
Progressive Turnout Project