PHOTOS: Let NY Vote and Sen. Ramos Demand Cuomo Fund Early Voting, Reject Activist Tax

Gov should fund EV instead of lowering the lobbying threshold to punish activists

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Group photo with Sen. Ramos

NEW YORK, NY (03/01/2019) (readMedia)-- Today, Let NY Vote activists and State Senator Jessica Ramos rallied in support of funding for early voting in the state budget and to reject the Governor's proposed "activist tax," that would lower the lobbying registration threshold from $5,000 to $500.

The Legislature passed early voting into law in January, providing voters 9 additional days to vote before an election. However, the Governor's proposed budget, and his 30 day amendments, did not include a dedicated funding stream, without which the program won't be a success when New Yorkers go to the polls in November.

"Our government should be encouraging more participation, not barring the door to it," said Susan Lerner Executive Director of Common Cause/NY. "Since the Governor's proposed budget seems to tax activists rather than provide funding for early voting, it's up to the Legislature to get it right. New York State needs to support and celebrate increased citizen participation."

"Our democracy works best when everyone can participate, and it is the Legislature's duty to break down barriers to participation," said State Senator Jessica Ramos. "That is why the Governor's proposed "activist tax" is a threat to the fabric of grassroots organizing. We in the Senate and the Assembly did our part to pass important voting reforms in the beginning of this session, but we now must pass a budget that funds these programs to ensure their success."

Instead of providing a dedicated funding stream for early voting, the Governor has suggested that the future consolidation of primaries (which does not go into effect until 2020) will produce a cost savings. 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 wave of grassroots activity that is sweeping the state is the perfect anecdote to a system that has prioritized the will of a few over the needs of the many. Governor Cuomo and the Legislature should be encouraging and enabling citizens to engage in their representative Democracy, not stifle it. Prioritizing and properly funding the access to vote and encouraging the engagement in activism should be pillars of our Democratic majority. The grassroots is watching," said Ricky Silver of Empire State Indivisible.

"New Yorkers are fierce advocates for their rights. We have organized with thousands of them and are hardly surprised that Albany wants to bring citizen advocacy under close watch," said Erika Lorshbough, assistant director for legislative affairs at the New York Civil Liberties Union. "We will fight any effort to use our state budget to stifle grassroots activism, and we will continue to stand strong with New York's grassroots to demand early voting be properly funded in every county this November. Our state government should amplify the voices of engaged New Yorkers by increasing their access to the ballot, not regulate them into submission."

"Our new state legislature sent a clear message that having the voices of all New Yorkers heard is a top priority by passing voting reform as the first order of business in the new session. The budget process should not be weaponized to stop the voices of those same residents being heard - Whether it's a risk to funding for early voting or lowering the lobbying threshold to silence grassroots groups, " said Judith Hertzberg of Persist New York.

"New York State should welcome everyday New Yorkers into our democracy, and that means making it easier to vote and participate," said Alex Camarda, Senior Policy Advisor at Reinvent Albany. "In this year's budget we must fund early voting adequately to ensure all New Yorkers have an opportunity to vote while not imposing burdensome regulations on volunteers and grassroots groups that are intended to reveal lobbying activity of government relations professionals."

Earlier this month, twenty national groups, like the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, wrote a letter (attached) pushing Governor Cuomo to fully fund early voting in New York.

Also tucked away in Governor Cuomo's budget is an attempt to drastically lower the lobbying threshold from $5000 to $500, forcing individuals and smaller groups to wade through the State's complex lobbying regulations. $500, to small grassroots groups, barely covers the cost of pizza, sign making materials, and a roundtrip ticket trip to Albany.


The Let NY Vote Coalition is a statewide network of over 100 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.

Universal transfer of voter registration: If a voter moves anywhere within New York State, their registration address will be automatically updated, and if not, he or she will be able to vote by affidavit ballot.