NYDLC Statement on Failure to Include Election Law Reform in NYS Budget

NEW YORK – The New York State Budget enacted over the weekend (April 9-10) included several bold new initiatives and much-needed reforms, but failed to include critical election law reform proposals.

For Immediate Release, Mar. 23, 2017
Contact: (866) NYDLC-01; [email protected]

NEW YORK – The New York State Budget enacted over the weekend (April 9-10) included several bold new initiatives and much-needed reforms, but failed to include critical election law reform proposals to provide residents with convenient early voting opportunities during the weekend and several days prior to an election, and automatic registration programs at the DMV to begin to modernize our paper-based voter registration system.

       These proposals would have improved access to participation and made voting more convenient for all eligible New Yorkers, especially working families. The Governor's initial budget proposal even included same-day voter registration options ("one stop" voting). 

       Common Cause NY, one of several good government groups that have prioritized improving our voter registration and election administration systems released a statement calling on Albany to "make it up" to New Yorkers before the end of the legislative session.  

       NYDLC Executive Director Jarret Berg said: “There are several impressive accomplishments in this year's budget. Some of them, like raise-the-age and upstate Uber are long overdue and should not be controversial, while others like tuition-free college reaffirm that New York can pioneer progressive values in the age of Trump. However, it is extremely disheartening that Albany lawmakers have punted on the opportunity and at this point, their responsibility to improve fundamental voting rights for New York residents."

       Early voting would cut down on long lines and wait times and make it easier for working people to vote while easing the systemic stress caused by directing millions of eligible voters to take concerted action on a single Election Day. This strain is an aggravating factor that causes smaller election administration issues to cascade into major site malfunctions that can disenfranchise thousands of voters. 

       Automatic voter registration is the cornerstone of a modern voting system, integrating voter registration across every contact a resident may have with their government, from the DMV to CUNY/SUNY, to public assistance (and creating the presumption that all eligible voters should be registered, with an option to opt out). The budget proposal was limited to DMV-only automatic registration, which is the tip of the iceberg for this urgently needed reform. Allowing eligible voters to be automatically registered when they come in contact with government agencies, would remove a host of inefficient processes and unnecessary barriers to voting. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, automatic voter registration “boosts registration rates, cleans up the rolls, makes voting more convenient, and reduces the potential for voter fraud, all while lowering costs.”

       Same-day voter registration is used by thirteen states and the District of Columbia.  With the requisite proof of residency eligible voters would be able to arrive at the polls on Election Day or during Early Voting, register for the first time, and cast a vote. Same day registration and voting would broaden access to our democracy and engage all citizens who want to exercise their fundamental rights on election day. 

       The New York Democratic Lawyers Council (NYDLC) is a coalition of attorneys and voting rights advocates who share the common goal of protecting each citizen’s right to vote by ensuring that all who are eligible can register easily, vote conveniently and without intimidation, and that all votes are counted accurately by reliable voting systems. You can learn more about NYDLC here and support NYDLC with your generous contribution in any amount here.

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