Voting Changes Coming

By Chip Rowe

On Monday (Jan. 14), the New York State Assembly and Senate passed seven bills that could dramatically change the state’s voting laws.

In the Senate, Sue Serino, a Republican whose district includes the Highlands, voted against four of the bills, citing the cost of implementing the reforms. In the Assembly, Sandy Galef, a Democrat whose district includes Philipstown, and Jonathan Jacobson, a Democrat whose district includes Beacon, voted “yes” for all seven. Gov. Andrew Cuomo is expected to sign them all.

Galef, who co-sponsored each of the bills, said in a statement that “election reform has been an issue that I have been working on since my very first term in the Assembly. It was frustrating to work on these bills so meticulously and have them pass the Assembly, just to get stalled indefinitely [in the Senate]. To get them all passed so early in the session is a true accomplishment.”

A774 / S1100 allows 16- and 17-year-olds to register to vote at the Department of Motor Vehicles, high schools and certain agencies, although they cannot vote until they turn 18.

SERINO  N     GALEF   Y     JACOBSON  Y

A775 / S1099 requires the Board of Elections to transfer voters’ registration and enrollments when they move within the state.

SERINO  N     GALEF       JACOBSON  Y

A776 / S1101 requires limited liability corporations to identity their owners to the Board of Elections to prevent individuals from making multiple contributions to the same candidate through separate entities.

SERINO  Y     GALEF   Y     JACOBSON  Y

S1048 would amend the state Constitution to eliminate the 10-day advance voter registration requirement, allowing for same-day registration. The bill will need to pass in 2020 and 2021 and then be approved by voters in a referendum.

SERINO  N     GALEF       JACOBSON  Y

S1049 would allow voters to cast absentee ballots without stating a reason for doing so, such as being out of town. As with the previous bill, it will need to be passed again in 2020 and 2021 and approved by voters.

SERINO  Y     GALEF   Y     JACOBSON  Y

A779 / S1103 changes the primary election dates so that state and federal primaries will be held on the same day, which the Legislature estimated could save $25 million annually. It also requires that ballots for military personnel and other overseas voters be sent at least 46 days before an election as required by federal law.

SERINO  Y     GALEF   Y     JACOBSON  Y

A.780 / S1102 establishes early voting starting 10 days before any election.

SERINO  N     GALEF   Y     JACOBSON  Y

Serino explained her “no” votes in a statement: “Democracy relies on healthy voter turnout, and we have a duty to ensure that our system empowers New York voters to make their voices heard. Today, I supported measures to do that, like consolidating our primary election days and passing legislation that would allow for ‘no-excuse absentee voting’ — a measure that would ensure any New Yorker with a conflict on Election Day can cast their vote by absentee ballot. I cannot, however, support measures that place a significant financial burden on already overtaxed New Yorkers… .

“In Dutchess County alone, the projected cost of the measure would be almost $1 million — just this year — with continued expenses accrued each election. In last year’s executive budget proposal, the governor only set aside $7 million, a small fraction of what would be necessary to fund this reform across the state. The measure ultimately failed to pass for this reason.

“The new Democratic majority ultimately disregarded these fiscal concerns, as well as the voices of local residents and local governments as they rushed to pass this mandate ahead of the Democratic Assembly and governor. I urge the state’s new leaders to ensure that the measure is adequately funded each year.”

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