NEW YORK, NY (03/27/2019) (readMedia)-- Today, Assembly Elections Chair Chuck Lavine, AM Latrice Walker, and Senator Jessica Ramos joined with Let NY Vote advocates to push for funding for early voting in the home-stretch of budget negotiations.
Watch the press conference here.
In January, the Legislature voted to pass early voting, making New York the 38th state in the nation to provide voters with nine additional days to vote before an election. Although the Governor swiftly signed the bill into law, his proposed budget does not include any funding for it; sticking counties with the cost. In contrast, the Assembly and Senate set aside a combined $17M to cover general operating expenses. In addition, the Assembly allocated $27M for electronic poll books and printers.
"New York cannot starve the state and county Boards of Elections of necessary funding to run secure and accessible elections. The Senate and the Assembly have already put a combined $44 million in their one house budgets to cover the cost of early voting, electronic pollbooks, and election administration. The Governor cannot cut funding while adding new responsibilities. It's time he gets on board, or else New York will continue to rank among the worst in the country for election reform," said Susan Lerner, Executive Director of Common Cause/NY and founding member of Let NY Vote.
Citizens Union, Common Cause/NY, League of Women Voters of New York State and New York Civil Liberties Union also issued a letter to NYS leadership in support of adequate funding for early voting in the budget. View the letter here.
The Governor has suggested that the future consolidation of primaries (which does not go into effect until 2020) will produce a cost savings to offset the cost of early voting. According to a study done by Citizens Union, cost estimates for early voting project at least $22 million in dedicated appropriations in order for it to run successfully.
The Governor and the Legislature are negotiating the final budget this week, due April 1st.
"For many New Yorkers, voting on Election Day is an obstacle that means being late to work or sacrificing pay. We must include funding for early voting in this year's budget to ensure that we are breaking down barriers to participation," said State Senator Jessica Ramos.
"New York has been a model in election reform for the nation and it is expected of us to deliver efficient, effective elections. The Assembly and Senate have demonstrated our commitment to election reform by funding it in our respective one house budgets. We can't stop now. We must fund early voting," said Assembly Woman Latrice Walker.
"I am very proud that New York State government is at the forefront of fighting to protect American voting rights," said Assemblymember Charles Lavine.
"Funding for early voting and electronic pollbooks must be included in this budget. Without adequate funding, these legislative victories will be unfunded mandates on our counties. To be truly successful in increasing voter participation in our elections, the legislators and Governor must complete their commitment to these voting reforms with funding. The League believes that voting should be easy and accessible to all voters," said Laura Ladd Bierman, Executive Director, League of Women Voters of NYS.
"Earlier this year, the legislature took a crucial step in bringing New York's archaic voting laws into the 21st century and making it easier for thousands of people across the state to vote," said Erika Lorshbough, assistant director for legislative affairs at the New York Civil Liberties Union. "At a time when the funding for the Board of Elections should be substantially increased, Governor Cuomo has put forth a budget that would slash its funding and see the elimination of hundreds of jobs. Reforming our voting system was merely the first step. Now the state agency that implements our elections must be funded adequately, and the county boards of election need designated funding to properly implement early voting."
"CPC serves 60,000 low-income, immigrant, and Asian American Pacific Islanders each year and conducts non partisan voter outreach and engagement every election. We guide community members through a step-by-step, personalized voting plan so they know where to go and what to expect. Early voting goes a long way toward helping voters who work long or unpredictable hours, take care of family members, or have limited mobility or transit find the time needed to cast their ballot. But the work isn't done, New York State must finish the job. Early voting must be included in the budget, otherwise the same issues of understaffing, language access, and long waits will continue to prevent our communities from fully participating in democracy. An unfunded mandate would be irresponsible, leaving poll sites overstretched and leaving voters underrepresented," said Amy Torres, Director of Policy & Advocacy at the Chinese-American Planning Council (CPC).
The Let NY Vote Coalition is a statewide network of over 175 member organizations ranging from 32BJ, to NAACP New York to New York State Indivisible. Full coalition list here.
The Let NY Vote coalition has been demanding common sense voting reform in New York for years such as:
Early Voting: 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: 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: 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: No eligible voter should have to provide a reason to be able to vote absentee.
Same day registration: 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.
Automatic Voter Registration: where registering to vote becomes seamless, electronic, and automatic.
Flexibility to Change Party Affiliation: 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.