NEW YORK, NY (03/19/2017) (readMedia)-- New York City elected officials, unions and grassroots organizations rallied at Battery Park to resist voter suppression, calling on Governor Andrew Cuomo and the State Legislature to modernize our elections by funding Early Voting and Automatic Voter Registration in the state budget, due April 1st.
Enacting Early Voting would allow New Yorkers to cast their ballot at polling locations before the traditional Election Day. 34 states already have some form of Early Voting, leaving New York as one of only 16 states without any means to vote early except via absentee ballot. New York does not have any form of Automatic Voter Registration either. Automatically registering eligible voters encourages civic participation, and provides a vehicle for state agencies to efficiently transfer voter registration information to the Board of Elections. Outdated elections is in part why only 29 percent of the state's eligible population voted in 2014, putting New York in the bottom third nationally.
The rally was co-sponsored by Common Cause New York, SEIU 32BJ, NY Immigration Coalition, NYCLU, NY Civic Engagement Table, TWU 100, Hispanic Federation, 2 hours A Week, Public Citizen, Citizen Action New York, Citizens Union, NYC Votes, New York Working Families, DuBois Bunche Center For Public Policy, Hugh L. Carey Institute, NYPIRG, Community Voices Heard, Women's City Club, Make the Road NY, NCAACP Brooklyn Chapter, Daily Kos, VOCAL, and the NY Progressive Action Network.
Featured speakers including Congressmembers Jerry Nadler, NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer, and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer spoke about the importance of modernizing our elections especially in response to national efforts to strip voting rights.
"New York has been a bastion of democracy, and leader of progressive activism during these difficult times facing our country," said Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY). "But unfortunately, our state has not been a leader when it comes to modernizing our voting systems. It is time to simplify our voting process and increase voter accessibility, by adding early voting, automatic and same-day voter registration, consolidated primaries and shortened party registration deadlines."
"At a time when we need to boost voter participation, we should make it easier, not harder, to vote," said New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer. "This is critical to ensuring accountable and effective government. New York's antiquated voting laws already lag behind most of the country. From early voting to same day registration, we need to implement smart reforms that expand the franchise and make our democracy more inclusive. That's why we have to speak out against the President's fraudulent claims of illegal voting and resist new barriers to the ballot."
"Now is the time for New York to be an example," said Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer. "Modern voting laws will help more people vote at a time of renewed civic participation, and they will save taxpayers time, money, and aggravation and reduce barriers to voting. There's no good reason we can't have early voting and a modernized, automatic voter registration system. We just need leaders in Albany to step up and insist on these reforms."
State Senator Brad Hoylman (D-27) said: "Since the Supreme Court invalidated part of the Voting Rights Act in 2013, state legislatures across the country have worked to disenfranchise voters at a level not seen since the Jim Crow era. With just 31 reported cases of voter fraud out of one billion votes cast between 2004 and 2014, the Trump Administration's arguments for a national voter fraud commission are not just wrong, they're dangerous and misleading. I'm proud to stand with Common Cause, SEIU, Make the Road New York and others in pushing back against voter disenfranchisement, and look forward to working with them to enact reforms that will protect and expand the right to vote."
"New York state should be a national leader in voter rights," said Council Member Ben Kallos (D-5). "Albany must implement voting reforms like early voting, no-fault absentee voting and automatic voter registration this year, because the health of our democracy depends on real electoral reform."
Said Council Member Brad Lander (D-39): "It really is this simple: By failing to adopt common-sense reforms like automatic voter registration and early voting, Albany is denying New Yorkers the right-to-vote. Who benefits? You know the answer. New data from 2016 election makes it clear. Those states who care about democracy and implemented voting reforms saw big increases in voter turnout. Sadly, New York State was not on the list. At this critical moment, if they care about our democracy, New York State Legislators will put these fundamental voting reforms into the budget, and adopt them this month."
"We need to break down the barriers that keep New Yorkers from casting their vote and making their voices heard," said Hector Figueroa, President of SEUI 32BJ. "Early voting and automatic voter registration are policies that are good for our state and good for our country. This vital legislation will expand voting rights and ensure we have real democracy."
"With the Trump regime already broadcasting pernicious lies about 'voter fraud' and planning to suppress the vote nationwide, New York can show the way forward by fixing our own broken electoral system here at home," said Bill Lipton, New York State Director of the Working Families Party. "We urge the state legislature to include early voting and automatic voter registration in the budget that will be adopted by April 1 so that New York can become a national leader in protecting and expanding voting rights."
"Voting is the lifeblood of our democracy and together we demand that our elections encourage full participation by all eligible New Yorkers," said Susan Lerner, executive Director of Common Cause New York. "We are demonstrating today to show our elected representatives that we want voter protection not voter suppression. It is time to make essential voting reforms like Early Voting and Automatic Voter Registration part of the state budget that will be adopted by April 1st."
"New York State must modernize our electoral process and make it accessible. Election reform can not continue to be a talking point for the NYS legislature. Now is the time to include early voting and automatic voter registration in the NYS budget. We call on the NYS legislature and Governor Cuomo to ensure that AVR and early voting are actualized by April 1," said Steve Choi, Executive Director of the New York Immigration Coalition.
"The fight for women's suffrage was started by New Yorkers and our state was once a leader in advancing voting rights. But now our outdated laws severely obstruct our right to cast a ballot," said Onida Coward Mayers, Director of Voter Assistance at the New York City Campaign Finance Board. "We need common sense reforms like early voting, automatic registration, same-day registration, and pre-clearance of voting regulations to ensure that no eligible voter in New York is ever prevented from casting a ballot that counts."
Javier H. Valdés, Co-Executive Director of Make the Road New York, said, "Immigrant communities around New York urgently need Albany's leaders to expand and defend voting rights. With the Trump administration already beginning its efforts to use lies about our voting system to justify voter suppression, it's more important than ever that we make it as easy as possible for New Yorkers to register to vote and cast their ballots."
"At the core of all of our national issues is limited access to voting, voter suppression and disenfranchisement," said Shabd Simon-Alexander, co-founder, 2 Hours A Week. "We can complain, march, call our reps all we want, but unless we also get to the polls and elect the right people, nothing will change. Yet so many people are kept from voting - either actively, through voter suppression, or passively, through arcane laws and complicated and discouraging registration and voting processes. So our fight is clear: we must make voting not only legal, but also accessible to all New Yorkers."
George Albro, co-chair NYPAN, a new statewide progressive organization, said, "New York's current election laws are a embarrassment and have made our state, once a proud leader in progressive innovations, synonymous with the purposeful disenfranchisement of millions: one of the worst registration and voter turnout rates, one of only 13 states without early voting, a Kafkaesque party change enrollment requirement of 11 months before a primary, and recurrent illegal purges of thousands of regular voters. To Governor Cuomo we say: enough is enough; 7 years in office, and nothing has changed. Don't call yourself a progressive unless and until you restore democracy in our state."