A Coalition of 175 + voting organizations urge NY lawmakers to protect
democracy and plan for November now
With less then one week until New York lawmakers head back into remote session and Boards of Elections (BOE) staff continue to count absentee ballots, the Let NY Vote Coalition - a statewide network of over 175 member organizations - released legislative recommendations that will protect and secure our upcoming November election.
In June, millions of voters cast their ballot absentee, early, or on Election Day. For the first time, all voters were allowed to vote via absentee because of an executive order issued by Governor Cuomo that has since expired. The BOE had two months to scale up their absentee program with limited funding and staff. While a majority of voters had a seamless voting experience, in some cases there were long lines, and voters never received their absentee ballot, or failed to get their absentee ballot postmarked in time.
In response, Let NY Vote released the following legislative priorities (and attached):
- Codify the expansion of expanded absentee voting for the duration of the public health crisis.
- In April, Governor Cuomo correctly issued an Executive Order (EO) expanding absentee voting so all voters could request a ballot in the mail due to the pandemic. The EO has since expired. These bills would codify the EO into law: (S8015B (Biaggi) /A10217A (Blake), or A10169A (Dinowitz).
- Ensure every properly cast absentee ballot is counted.
- Right now, BOEs are counting a record number of absentee ballots. The BOE can legally invalidate ballots for a myriad of reasons including stray marks, improper sealing, and late postmarks. These bills would address technicalities:
- S8368 (Myrie)/A10744(Paulin): protects ballots where voters intent is unambiguous
- S8369 (Myrie)/A10746(Paulin): deals with methods for sealing absentee ballots
- S8370 (Myrie)/no same as: allows for absentee ballot curing process due to observer challenge
- S8367 (Myrie)/no same as: deals with absentee ballot postmarking issues and forces the USPS to use Full Service Intelligent Mail, which allows tracking of the absentee ballots through the postal service. Use of intelligent Mail would eliminate the possibility that a ballot mailed after the deadline would accidentally be counted.
- Providing a return postage guaranteed envelope with absentee ballots.
- Currently, BOEs are not required to send envelopes for ballots with prepaid postage. S8004 (Sanders)/A2327 (May) would require pre-paid postage.
- Temporarily enable the use of an online voter registration portal in New York City.Increase the minimum number of early voting sites to 10 per County S6922 (Kaplan)/A9791(Lavine).
- The pandemic has caused a drop in voter registration across the state. This bill would make it easier for voters to register by allowing temporary use of the New York City Campaign Finance Board's online portal and would sunset as soon as the New York State Board of Elections online voter registration portal goes live in/by 2022: (S6463 Myrie /A8473 Blake)
- Provide students with voter information and application for voter registration (S7194 (Benjamin)/A8998(Dinowitz)
"The June primary election was unprecedented, but democracy does not pause, it adapts. The Boards of Elections -- faced with an unparalleled task of mailing out absentee ballots to every voter -- did a credible job, but it was not without problems. New York lawmakers must prioritize planning for the November election today. The Boards of Elections need ample time to prepare for the Presidential Election to guarantee that all votes count," said Susan Lerner, Executive Director of Common Cause/NY.
"This November, New Yorkers will go to the polls in one of the most critical elections of our lifetime. Every New Yorker must have access to the ballot in order to participate in the election of leaders who will directly impact their rights and freedoms, including access to reproductive health care. In this pivotal moment for our state and nation, we need to take every available step to ensure all New Yorkers can exercise their right to vote," said Robin Chappelle Golston, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood Empire State Acts.
"NYCET and our partners are strongly committed to ensuring that every New Yorker is able to cast their ballot this upcoming General Election. Our communities deserve legislation that meet our needs as we continue to navigate the Covid crisis by making voter registration more accessible, guaranteeing access to absentee ballots and protecting our votes. We demand that Albany do right by all New Yorkers," said, Marcela Barrientos, Interim Executive Director at NYCET.
"Now more than ever, it's imperative that we empower every voter with safe options for how to cast their ballot this fall. All voters should have the option to easily vote by mail, participate in early voting or go to the polls on Election Day," said Crisanta Duran, NY State Director of DFER & former CO Speaker of the House.
"2020 has brought New Yorkers unprecedented challenges. Voting safely, without risk of disenfranchisement should not be one of them. The Legislature must enact these reforms as soon as possible to ensure every voter can safely cast a ballot and have that ballot be counted come November," said the New York Democratic Lawyers Committee.
"The June Primary was just a test run for conducting an election during a pandemic. The problems we saw last month could be multiplied manyfold In November if lawmakers do not act now. We must ensure voters can easily request, receive, and mail their absentee ballots, that young New Yorkers can register online, and that all votes are properly counted. We don't have a moment to waste," said Betsy Gotbaum, Executive Director of Citizens Union.
"The June primary highlighted many of the obvious inadequacies in New York State's absentee ballot counting procedures. Voters throughout the state were unsure whether their ballot would arrive in time to be counted, or whether their ballot would be rejected without their knowledge. This package of bills will address issues surrounding absentee voting in New York State as well as assuring voters that they will be able to continue to vote via absentee ballot during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic," said Jennifer Wilson of the League of Women Voters of NYS.
"COVID-19 presents many challenges to voting in this State and country. We can't provide voters with a choice between their health and their civic duty, so the Let NY Vote priority legislation list is an essential part of keeping our voters safe this fall. Absentee ballots are easy and convenient. They are so easy that officials like President Trump employ it!" said David H. Stonehill, Esq., David H. Stonehill, PC.
"The timing, pace, and scope of the current public health crisis has disrupted schools across New York, bringing civic engagement initiatives to a standstill and leaving hundreds of thousands of young people with limited opportunities to register to vote and exercise their rights. Generation Vote heard from educators across New York who had difficulty educating their students about how to apply for absentee ballots, and from students who were disenfranchised by not receiving their absentee ballots in time for the primary. We encourage the Legislature to make it easier for CUNY/SUNY students to receive critical information about how to vote absentee and to protect our right to vote in the most consequential election for our generation," said Generation Vote, Co-chairs of the LNYV Youth Working Group.
"As June primary results are canvassed, New Yorkers continue to witness how voting rights can be jeopardized during a State of Emergency when we lack modern election infrastructure and legal safeguards to ensure due process, said Jarret Berg, Co-Founder of VoteEarlyNY. We urge Albany lawmakers and the State Board to institute these proposals this summer, to make our elections more resilient in the face of crisis, and so New Yorkers have clarity and certainty that they will be able to safely access a ballot that will count this fall."
"We have no idea what November is going to look like. It is imperative that the legislature takes steps NOW to ensure that our elections run smoothly regardless of whether or not the situation improves in the next 4 months," from the Brooklyn Voters Alliance.
The Let NY Vote coalition - a statewide network of over 175 member organizations - has been a leading voice on common sense election reform.
- Let NY Vote's full list of wins in the 2019/20 legislative session include:
- Early Voting (enacted into law): in place in 37 other states and now New York, allowing citizens to cast ballots in person days, sometimes weeks, before an election. The 2019 New York State budget included $14.7 million for electronic poll-books and $10 million for counties to implement early voting.
- Pre-registration of 16 and 17-year-olds (enacted into law): 13 states plus DC allow for pre-registration for voting at 16 and 17 years old. Pre-registration increases the likelihood of voter participation among young adults. Engaging potential voters at a young age and bringing them into the voting process early helps create lifelong voters.
- Consolidation of Primary Dates (enacted into law): Currently New York has two primary days in June and September, confusing voters. New York is the only state with two primaries.
- Vote by mail (passed in leg, requires constitutional amendment): No eligible voter should have to provide a reason to be able to vote absentee.
- Same day registration (passed in leg, requires constitutional amendment): 18 states and DC have Same Day Registration. Same Day Registration enables voters to register and vote at the same time and increases voter turnout.
- Flexibility to Change Party Affiliation (enacted into law): New York has the most restrictive deadline in the country, locking out hundreds of thousands of voters during the primaries. The change of party deadline must be shortened to allow people to make an informed decision.