NEW YORK, NY (01/23/2018) (readMedia)-- Today, hundreds of advocates, including impacted voters and members of the Let NY Vote coalition, rallied in support of Early Voting in New York.
Early Voting would allow citizens to cast ballots in person days, sometimes weeks, before an election. Currently, 37 states already have some form of Early Voting, leaving New York as one of only 13 states without any means to vote early except via absentee ballot.
Although Early Voting was included in Governor Cuomo's 2018-19 budget, there was not an allocation of funds. The Let NY Vote coalition is advocating for at least $7 million in dedicated funds for Early Voting.
"Voting access should not be a partisan issue. Whether you are a single mother working two jobs or retired with limited transportation options, everyone deserves a convenient opportunity to cast a ballot. Early voting is not just beneficial to voters, it reduces stress on poll workers and allows for more secure elections. The League of Women Voters of New York State proudly supports early voting and we urge the Governor and Legislature to fund this crucial voting reform," said Jennifer Wilson, Legislative Director of the League of Women Voters of New York State.
"New York's voter participation lags behind other states not because we are apathetic, but because our process is too restrictive - especially for already marginalized communities. If we are truly committed to an inclusive, democratic society, early voting is a no-brainer," said Rev. Emily McNeill, Executive Director of the Labor-Religion Coalition of NYS.
"We must do everything we can to break down the barriers to voting so that working New Yorkers can make their voices heard at the ballot box," said 32BJ President Hector Figueroa. "Now is the time for early voting, a common-sense policy that will help more people cast their vote. This is good for our state, our country, and our democracy."
"Voting rights are one of the best defenses we have against the billionaires and corporations trying to buy our democracy," said Stanley Fritz, Campaign Manager for Citizen Action of New York. "We need comprehensive voting reform in New York State, and early voting is an important first step. People who work 12 or 14-hour shifts to put food on the table deserve easy access to the polls. Early voting is long overdue in our state."
"Democracy is fundamentally a religious principle. It is the capacity of people to participate in shaping their own fate and that of their community. Voting is both a symbol and a sacrament," said Rev. Richard S. Gilbert, President of Interfaith Impact of New York State.
"It's time for New York to get in line with 37 other states and adequately fund early voting in this year's budget," said Susan Lerner, Executive Director of Common Cause/NY. "New York continually ranks low for voter turn-out – and that's not because people don't want to vote, it's because our archaic laws restrict us from doing so. This is a non-partisan, no brainer: pass early voting and let New Yorkers vote."
"The right to vote is only symbolic without the access to vote. Early voting is a necessity for many working people, parents, the disabled, the elderly, commuters and others who have to choose between casting their vote and meeting their daily responsibilities. No one should have to choose between their job, their family and their vote," said Shabd Simon-Alexander, co-founder of 2 Hours A Week.
"It is often assumed that college students do not want to vote or be politically involved in the communities that we call home for four years. This is far from the truth. Although my generation is more motivated to be involved in local issues and believes in the power of voting to influence local government just like the generations before us, we are disproportionately affected by the voting hurdles in New York State and are actively kept away from the ballot. Reforms like early voting would make it easier for students like myself to exercise our right to vote while in school and to have a say in our communities," said Brianna Cea, CEO and Co-Founder of GenVote.
"We need to do everything we can to make it as easy as possible for everyone to exercise their right to vote," said NYSUT President Andy Pallotta. "It's long past time for the state to make voting more convenient for New Yorkers through early voting, automatic registration and electronic poll books. New York should join the 37 other states which have already taken these steps -- and others -- to make the actual voting process simpler and easier."
"New Yorkers deserve elections that reflect the way we live today. In 2018, there is no reason why opportunities to vote in New York are limited while 37 other states have early voting. Early voting will make our elections more accessible to New Yorkers who are caregivers, hourly employees, and people with disabilities. In New York, early voting is an idea whose time has come," said Betsy Gotbaum, Executive Director of Citizens Union.
"Democracy depends on our ability to be part of the political process and early voting is an easy way to ensure everyone has the opportunity to cast their ballot. Our country has a long history of crafting restrictions to selectively disenfranchise voters. Embracing early voting means New York commits to putting power in the hands of the people," said Robin Chappelle Golston, President & CEO of Planned Parenthood Empire State Acts.
"Our democracy is stronger, New York is stronger, when more people vote. Early voting makes that possible- especially for workers whose job schedules prevent them from voting. We need to stop disenfranchising hard working women and men, and give them a real chance to exercise their constitutional right to vote and select representatives who will fight for their needs," said Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU)
"It's about time that New York catches up with the 37 other states and Washington D.C. that provide early voting for their residents. Governor Cuomo should put his money where his mouth is and make sure there is funding in the state budget to implement it and not push the funding requirement back on the counties to implement," said Jonah Minkoff-Zern, Director, Public Citizen's Democracy Is For People Campaign.
"For over 100 years the NAACP has fought for the rights of African Americans to vote. President Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act in 1965 to ensure that there would be no impediments to prevent African Americans from expressing their right to vote. Yet, 53 years later we still find stumbling blocks in our paths -from felony laws to aggressive gerrymandering. New barriers are put in place every year to make it harder for people of color to vote. The New York State NAACP will continue to challenge voter suppression at all cost. We will educate, register, and take our people to the polls. We are committed to breaking the strongholds," said Anne Pope North East Regional Director of the NAACP.
"Brooklyn Voters Alliance appreciates Governor Cuomo's support for Early Voting, Automatic Voter Registration and other reforms necessary to increase access to our fundamental right to vote. Even without funds allocated in the Executive Budget, we will continue to fight to make democracy work for all New Yorkers,"said Nicole Hunt, Brooklyn Voters Alliance.
"The right to vote is fundamental to our democracy. Every person who is eligible to vote should be afforded the opportunity to do so with as little constraints as possible. Early voting allows working families, caretakers, and people with varied work obligations the ability to make their voices heard. I applaud the governor for prioritizing early voting in the executive budget proposal and will be sure to continue advocating for its inclusion throughout the budget process," said Assembly Member Pamela Hunter.
"The promise of our democracy is simple – everyone who is eligible to vote should be able to cast a ballot easily and fairly. But in New York, that just isn't the case. Far too often, our outdated election laws keep New Yorkers from voting, and we regularly rank as one of the worst states for voter turnout," said Senator Brian Kavanagh, Ranking Democrat on the Senate Elections Committee, Senate Sponsor of early voting, and former sponsor of the bill the Assembly passed in 2016 and 2017. "From nurses and police officers, to parents and caregivers, busy New Yorkers need early voting. But we don't need to make counties foot the bill on their own. Early voting is estimated to cost $7 million, or less than 1% of 1% of the total state budget. New Yorkers who want to participate in our democracy are counting on us – that's why I'm proud to stand with this diverse statewide coalition. And it's why I'm urging our colleagues in the Senate, the Assembly, and the Governor's Office to include early voting in the budget this year."
"The right to vote is an essential aspect of our democracy and it should be made as easy and convenient as possible. For people of color, who have often been the targets of voter suppression and intimidation, it is especially important that our voting systems are easily accessible. By passing reforms like early and in-person absentee voting we can increase voter participation and enhance our democracy," said Senator Marisol Alcantara.
In his 2018 State of the State address, Governor Cuomo urged the Legislature to institute Early Voting.
New York State lags behind other states in election reform: 37 states and Washington DC have some form of Early Voting.
New York also lacks Automatic Voter Registration which would allow eligible voters to automatically register to vote whenever they interact with a state agency. In addition, 16 other states allow post-incarceration voting, which fosters re-entry through civic participation and is easier to administer. Outdated elections are in part why only 29% of the state's eligible population voted in the last statewide election in 2014, putting New York in the bottom third nationally: New York State currently ranks 41st in the nation.
This year, Let NY Vote, formally known as Easy Elections NY, formed as a statewide coalition of organizations & grassroots groups fighting to modernize New York's elections. The goal is to pass simple solutions in 2018 to improve our elections and remove barriers to registering and voting for all New Yorkers.
The Let NY Vote coalition is made up of over thirty organizations, nonprofits, and labor unions, including the New York State United Teachers, SEIU 32BJ, RWDSU, CWA District 1, as well as the statewide NAACP and National Action Network, civil liberties, reproductive and immigrant rights, criminal justice and re-entry groups, New American, and the LGBTQ community. A full list is available at letnyvote.org