Voting Rights Groups, Lawmakers Urge Legislation To Allow Non-partisan Poll Monitors in Poll Sites

Simple, common-sense legislation would increase transparency and give voters access to more independent resources amid heightened election cycle

NEW YORK, NY (05/17/2024) (readMedia)-- Ahead of the June primary elections, Common Cause New York joined with Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal and voting rights groups for a press conference in support of A2408-A / S5193-A: legislation that will allow non-partisan poll monitors into poll sites during Early Voting and Election Day. Poll monitors are non-partisan individuals trained to help resolve any issues that voters have during the electoral process as well as observe the process to ensure a seamless voting experience for all. Right now, in a few locations, some monitors have been kicked out of polling places.

The press conference was held outside the American Natural History Museum, which thanks to the effort of advocates and lawmakers, will be used as a polling site for the first time. Common Cause/NY and its coalition partners in the Let NY Vote coalition have long pushed for cultural institutions to do their civic duty and become early voting and election day poll sites. According to an analysis done by WNYC, over 40 cultural institutions in New York received a combined $580 million in property tax breaks from the City in 2020. In exchange for tax breaks, institutions are legally supposed to make their spaces available as poll sites. However, only a handful have done so.

Watch a recording of the event here.

"As we enter this busy, heightened election season, we must continue to work to make the voting process more safe and transparent for all New Yorkers. We're thrilled to have joined lawmakers and voting rights groups to expand poll sites at cultural institutions like the American Natural History Museum, which will make voting more accessible and lessen the strain on existing poll sites. But our work cannot end there. Poll monitors are an essential resource for our elections, which is why lawmakers should pass legislation before the end of session that ensures they can serve as an independent resource for voters and observe the process for any issues that may arise," said Susan Lerner, Executive Director of Common Cause New York.

"I'm thrilled that The American Museum of Natural History is becoming an early voting site starting in June. Thanks to the generosity of AMNH, no longer will hundreds of public school students be forced to share their busy school day with an early voting location at the William O'Shea educational campus. I'm grateful to the teachers, parents and administrators for raising this issue and especially AMNH President Sean Decatur and the NYC Board of Elections, as well as my colleagues Assembly Member Rosenthal and Council Member Brewer, for their community partnership in making this new early-voting site possible. I also want to thank voting rights groups like Common Cause and Let NY Vote for their efforts to ensure that voting is easy, accessible, and safe for all New Yorkers," said Senator Brad Hoylman-Sigal.

"I applaud the American Museum of Natural History, located in my district, for throwing open its doors to the voting public to ensure that they have the opportunity to case their ballot in elections, a model that more cultural institutions should follow. AMNH is continuing its tradition of being a great civic partner to our city and state. The ability to cast a vote without issues at the ballot box is central to the health of our democracy. While certain groups try to sow doubt in our electoral process and call into question the validity of our votes, New York State should take the opportunity to proactively pass legislation to bring non-partisan poll monitors to poll sites around the state. Having professionals at the polls to oversee our elections and assist voters with any issues they may encounter while trying to cast a ballot can only strengthen confidence in the system. I am proud to join Common Cause New York, Empire State Indivisible and the Brooklyn Voters Alliance in calling for passage before our June primaries of bill A2408, important legislation that will allow non-partisan poll monitors at poll sites," said Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal (D/WF - Manhattan), Chair of the Assembly Committee on Housing.

"??At its heart, election protection is about protecting the rights of voters and should be focused on helping people cast their vote and not helping campaigns or candidates win. Nonpartisan poll observers help all voters and strengthen our democracy by not privileging one voter over another," said Jan Combopiano, Executive Committee member of Brooklyn Voters Alliance.

"The Indivisible movement is predicated on engaging people in civic life and our democracy. Trained, non-partisan poll monitors at early voting and Election Day poll sites are essential to helping New York voters feel confident in casting their ballots, using their voice, and engaging in civic life and democracy. Our New York Legislature must pass the bill to establish a nonpartisan poll monitoring program throughout New York State ahead of this year's elections," said Danielle Brecker, Co-lead Organizer, Empire State Indivisible.


Voters face a number of challenges during the electoral process, and too often partisan actors use this opportunity to manipulate New Yorkers at the ballot box. To combat these bad-faith efforts, and to encourage New Yorkers to vote without fear of confusion or intimidation, Common Cause New York has worked as part of the Election Protection coalition to provide non-partisan help to voters navigating the voting process and ensure voters can cast their ballot without issues.

As we approach the June primary, state lawmakers should do more to empower these independent resources so that voters are confident they can participate in our democratic process without any problems.