Common Cause/NY Pushes Lawmakers to Prioritize Voting Rights as Session Ends

In the last week of the New York legislative session, Susan Lerner, Executive Director of Common Cause/NY released the following statement pushing lawmakers to act on voting rights:

“Lawmakers have an historic opportunity to pass legislation that will directly impact voters’ lives and improve democracy ahead of 2024. From expanding absentee voting to allowing food and water on voting lines, the need is urgent: we can not rest on our laurels from years past. As we head into a Presidential election year, lawmakers must act now or New Yorkers will pay the price at the polls,” said Susan Lerner, Executive Director of Common Cause/NY and co-founder of Let NY Vote.

Let NY Vote Priorities:

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.

Same Day Voter Registration During First Day of Early Voting (S5984-A Kavanagh/A6132-A Carroll):

  • 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.

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.

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.