Lawmakers, Let NY Vote Push for Votings Rights Package in Remaining Days of Session

Groups highlight reforms such as plain language on ballot measures, preserving absentee ballot access, and others ahead of the 2024 elections

ALBANY, NY (05/02/2023) (readMedia)-- Today, members of the Let NY Vote Coalition – including Common Cause/NY, NYPIRG, League of Women Voters – joined with Assembly Members Dinowitz, Burgos, and Cunningham and Senator Cleare to rally in support of a comprehensive voting rights package and call on Albany lawmakers to pass the set of bills before session ends. Since 2019, New York lawmakers have passed many pro-voter bills including early voting, automatic voter registration, voting rights for people on parole, and more. Now, this session, lawmakers can continue enfranchising New Yorkers in advance of the critical 2024 elections by passing the following bills:

Require Plain Language on Statewide Ballot Measures (Comrie S1381)/A1722 (Zinerman):

  • Current law requires that ballot measures be "clear and coherent", but voters complain that what appears on the ballot is confusing and full of legalese.
  • This law would require that any language on a ballot be at an 8th grade reading level or lower so voters can easily understand the text.

Preserve Modern Absentee Ballot Access "Because of Illness" (A3291 Dinowitz):

  • During the COVID-19 pandemic, New York lawmakers correctly clarified that absentee voting 'because of illness' included the risk of contracting or spreading disease. This allowed many New Yorkers who may be immunocompromised, elderly, or don't feel safe casting their ballot in person, a chance to vote safely and securely.
  • New York lawmakers must permanently clarify the definition of "because of illness" for absentee voting to avoid voter confusion and potential disenfranchisement, and improve the resiliency of our democracy.

Require Use of Paper Ballots (A5934A Cunningham)/S6169 Cleare):

  • Paper ballots marked by the voter are the gold standard when it comes to current voting technology.
  • This bill requires that every voter will have the option to mark a paper ballot by hand or with a ballot marking device that does not also count votes.

Same Day Voter Registration During Early Voting (S2381 Myrie/A5007 Burgos):

  • Currently there is one day during early voting where a person can register to vote AND vote on the same day. It is not clear, however, how a potential voter would be able to take advantage of this "Golden Day."
  • That's why New York Lawmakers must pass this bill so local BOEs have clear guidance for the upcoming June primary so NYers can register and vote at early voting poll sites.
    Boards of Elections will not cast nor count these affidavit ballots until the voter's eligibility has been verified as per state law.
  • This will bring NY in line with 22 other states and DC that have some form of same day voter registration.

Allow Nonpartisan Groups to Provide Food and Water to Voters in Line (S616 Myrie/A1346 Simon):

  • New York is one of the very few states that prohibits anyone from providing food or water to voters waiting in line or in a polling place.
  • This bill would allow organizations and individuals to provide items of nominal value, including snacks, water, soft drinks or other refreshments, to voters waiting in line. The organization or person must not identify themselves as to prevent illegal soliciting for votes.

"Lawmakers have an historic opportunity to pass legislation that will directly impact voters' lives. From expanding absentee voting to allowing food and water on voting lines, New York has a real chance to lead and protect voters. We look forward to working with lawmakers to get these bills passed, and then with the Board of Elections to implement these long overdue reforms in time for the critical 2024 elections," said Susan Lerner, Executive Director of Common Cause/NY and co-founder of Let NY Vote.

Let NY Vote is a nonpartisan, statewide coalition of grassroots networks, civil rights and civil liberties organizations, re-entry communities, good government groups, unions, social service providers, immigrant rights groups, and everyday citizens who are fighting to improve New York's elections.

Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz (D - Bronx) said: "A person should never have to choose between their health and their vote. We in New York recognized that in 2020 by enacting my legislation that allowed voters to vote by absentee ballot if there was a risk of contracting or spreading a disease. We rightly reauthorized my legislation last year and it is now time to make this legislation permanent to ensure that no New Yorkers ever has to put their health at risk to exercise their right to vote."

"There are still serious problems with the way New York's voting system works. Our state consistently ranks towards the bottom of the list when looking at voter turnout across the country. These basic reforms will make it easier for all New Yorkers to participate in elections. We look forward to working with lawmakers to pass these basic measures this legislative session so that more New Yorkers can get out to vote," said Laura Ladd Bierman, Executive Director League of Women Voters of New York State

"New Yorkers have a constitutional right to vote. This package of legislation helps makes that right an easy reality. These common sense measures should be approved this session," said Blair Horner, Executive Director of the New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG).

"With the budget negotiated, lawmakers should quickly enact these modern voting proposals in time for upcoming elections said Jarret Berg, Voting Rights Counsel at Vote Early New York. Assemblymember Dinowitz' pandemic-tested bill clarifying absentee voting access "because of illness" should be made permanent, because it safeguards civil rights, continues to protect vulnerable New Yorkers from contagious illness, and incorporates lessons learned that make our democracy more resilient. Without this law, dozens of counties may attempt to raise new barriers to absentee balloting, leaving voters with less access-less safe access-than they have enjoyed for the past three years. While New Yorkers will still need to cite an excuse to vote absentee as the state Constitution requires, the clarification sets a clear, fair, uniform rule that prevents selective disenfranchisement in close 2023 and 2024 contests."

"In the remaining weeks of session, lawmakers have the opportunity to pass several common-sense measures that will strengthen our democracy and improve the voting experience in New York State. We urge the legislature to pass Assembly Member Jeffery Dinowitz's bill, which would clarify that New Yorkers can vote absentee if there is a risk of contracting or spreading a disease. The pandemic highlighted the importance of proactively protecting the right to vote in the face of an unknown public health crisis. Passing this measure will prevent inconsistencies across the state's local board of elections and allow New Yorkers to exercise their right to vote safely," said Betsy Gotbaum, Executive Director of Citizens Union.