Let NY Vote Coalition Addresses Early Voting Next Steps for 2020
Survey finds > 93% of voters would vote early again
NEW YORK, NY (11/20/2019) (readMedia)-- Ahead of a legislative hearing to assess the Early Voting in New York State, the Let NY Vote Coalition, including Common Cause/NY Executive Director Susan Lerner, addressed next steps heading into the presidential primaries in April. New York's first ever Early Voting period ran for 9 days, beginning October 26th and ending on November 3rd.
"Early Voting was overall a huge success across New York State. Wait times were minimal - or non existent - and whatever minor hiccups happened, there was ample time for the Board of Elections to respond. We have a number of improvements to make before the next election, like establishing early voting centers in New York City, and making sure there are enough appropriate locations for early voting pollsites, but we look forward to many more successful early voting periods to come," said Susan Lerner, Executive Director of Common Cause/NY.
According to a survey done by the New York State League of Women Voters, more than 93% of voters said that they would vote early again and 89% of voters waited only 0 to 5 minutes to vote. 1,791 voters participated in the survey across 54 counties.
However, there will need to be additional improvements and changes going forward to fully work out all the kinks, such as:
- Ensuring that all New Yorkers will be able to vote at any Early Voting poll site in their county by establishing voting centers.
- Ensuring an adequate supply of appropriate Early Voting poll sites.
- Creating a more robust education campaign about the new law.
- Establishing nonpartisan poll monitors.
In January, New York became the 38th state in the nation to establish Early Voting. The 2019 New York State budget included $14.7 million for electronic poll-books and $10 million for counties to implement early voting; almost exactly the combined $25 million the Let NY Vote coalition had asked for.
"Our democracy is stronger, New York is stronger, when more people vote. Early voting makes that possible – especially for workers whose job schedules make it difficult for them to vote. It is clear that early voting gives working people 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).
"This fall, we've seen the tremendous potential of early voting. Over a quarter-million voters statewide, including 60,110 in the five boroughs, took advantage of the extra time to cast their ballot and voted early, making up approximately eight percent of all votes cast. This led to a nearly threefold increase in overall voter turnout from the last off-year election cycle four years ago. These are admirable outcomes for early voting's first year, but there is room for improvement. Presidential years are the busiest at New York City's poll sites, and 2020 will be no exception. If done right, early voting can help alleviate the election day issues that typically plague poll sites in New York. We hope the Board of Elections builds on this year's success and enacts common sense changes -- like allowing voters to cast their ballot at any early voting location in their borough -- to make voting even more convenient for New Yorkers,"said Rachel Bloom, Director of Policy at Citizens Union.
"While New York's first experience with early voting was largely successful, there is ample room for improvement across the state to ensure that these programs adequately meet the needs of New York's diverse communities. We look forward to working with state and local policymakers to optimize the plan in the months to come," said Jarret Berg, Co-Founder of VoteEarlyNY.
"Asian American and Pacific Islanders voters make up one of every three immigrant voters nationally and in New York State, one in four voters is a naturalized immigrant. As the AAPI electorate grows, limited voter contact, language access, and barriers at the polls prevent AAPIs from fully exercising their voting rights and influence," said Amy Torres, Director of Policy & Advocacy at the Chinese-American Planning Council. "CPC applauds our State leaders for enacting much-needed reforms like Early Voting and expanding democracy for the busy New Yorkers who need time outside Election Day to cast their ballot. This inaugural year showed great promise, and with increased Early Voting funding, additional sites, and county-wide voting centers, New York has the opportunity to make 2020 a historic year for voter turnout."
The Let NY Vote coalition - a statewide network of over 175 member organizations - has been a leading voice on common sense election reform.
Let NY Vote's full list of wins in the 2019 legislative session include:
- Early Voting (enacted into law): in place in 37 other states and now New York, allowing citizens to cast ballots in person days, sometimes weeks, before an election. The 2019 New York State budget included $14.7 million for electronic poll-books and $10 million for counties to implement early voting.
- Pre-registration of 16 and 17-year-olds (enacted into law): 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 (enacted into law): 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 (passed in leg, requires constitutional amendment): No eligible voter should have to provide a reason to be able to vote absentee.
- Same day registration (passed in leg, requires constitutional amendment): 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.
- Flexibility to Change Party Affiliation (enacted into law): 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.
What's left on the voting right's agenda:
- Automatic Voter Registration: where registering to vote becomes seamless, electronic, and automatic. 16 states and Washington DC have already implemented some form of AVR.
- Voting Rights for People on Parole: the restoration of voting rights for people on parole needs to be codified in law, so that restoration becomes an automatic process.
- One Single Deadline for Voter Registration and Party Enrollment: Currently, there are too many deadlines for voters: one for a first time voter, address change, party affiliation, etc. These deadlines must be aligned to reduce confusion and streamline the process.