Victory for Voters: Immigrant Advocates Celebrate NYS Reform Package

NYS Legislature passes voter reform package to strengthen voter participation

NEW YORK, NY - In a victory for our democracy, the State Legislature passed a voting reform package that includes six bills to strengthen New York voting power and combat voter-suppression across the state.

Legislation in the package includes early voting, pre-registration of 16 and 17 year-old New Yorkers, consolidating primary voting for state and federal elections, voting by mail, same-day voter registration, and closing the LLC loophole.

Steven Choi, Executive Director of the New York Immigration Coalition, issued the following statement:

“New York’s outdated voting laws have dragged our voter participation rates to the bottom nationwide - particularly among new Americans and other marginalized communities. The passage of this voter reform package is a first step towards bolstering New Yorkers’ voting power, combating voter suppression, and building a stronger democracy.  We applaud the leadership of the State Legislature, and look forward to seeing the Governor sign this package into law.”

The lack of voting best practices has led to election procedures that fail to meet the needs of a highly diverse electorate in the fourth largest state in the nation.

Background

Early Voting
The new legislation will allow New Yorkers to vote 10 days before the election, which provides two weekends. This is the single biggest item in the package to increase turnout because it gives more opportunities to vote, particularly for people with long commutes, parents and caregivers who have children or family to look after, and those with non-traditional work schedules that have a difficult time making it to the polls when Tuesday is their only option. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 35 states plus the District of Columbia permit some form of early voting

Pre-Registration of 16 and 17 year olds
The new legislation will allow soon to be voters to register at the ages of 16 and 17 years old, so that they can automatically vote once they turn 18. This will help bolster the process to engage young voters, which has proven difficult in the past.

Consolidating State and Federal Primaries
Previously, New York was the only state to hold separate primaries for state and federal elections, costing the state millions of dollars and producing lower voter-turnout.

Vote by Mail
Previously, you could vote by mail only with a valid excuse - such as a medical condition. With vote by mail, you can just request to receive a ballot in the mail, complete it, and mail it back without needing a reason. This will require a voter referendum so it won’t go into effect until at least 2021.

Same-day Voter Registration
Currently, 19 states plus the District of Columbia allow same day voter registration.

Closing the LLC Loophole
Closing the LLC loophole will allow small donors to have a greater say in the democratic process. There are limits on how much an individual can contribute to a campaign, unless the individual funnels money through an LLC they’ve created. It allows the wealthy to circumvent campaign finance laws and drowns out the voices of others, particularly low-income communities.

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