Governor expected to support voting reform measures

LISTEN: Lieutenant governor shows support for voting reform

Mike Baggerman
January 14, 2019 - 3:00 am

Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul calling on Bishop Richard Malone to resign. August 27, 2018 (WBEN Photo/Mike Baggerman)


BUFFALO,N.Y. (WBEN) - Expect New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to support the voting reform introduced by the New York State Legislature.

Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul said the governor talked about his support in the 100 days initiative last month and that she believes the changes will happen immediately.

"It's one of our first priorities to get more participation in our democracy and make sure there is access to the ballot box," Hochul said.

The first change will come on Monday when state senate and assembly democrats will vote to allow voters to cast a ballot up to ten days before an election. Most states already allow early voting, though the reforms failed in the past because of the republican-controlled senate.

"It's asking a lot of our citizens to show up between the hours of 6 a.m. and 9 p.m. for one day out of the year," Hochul said. "Other states have early voting available for them."

She also said there are hopes for same-day registration and a joint federal and state primary. New York is the only state in the country that held its federal and state primary on different days last year. 

New York was among the worst ten states for turnout in the 2016 and 2018 elections.

The Associated Press contributed to this story

Early voting and other changes up for debate have long been blocked by Republicans in the state Senate. Democrats wrested control of the chamber from the GOP in last November's elections, and are promising quick action on reforms.

Good-government groups that have advocated for the changes for years will be watching to see if they follow through on the promise.

"There's no reason we should be trying to cram millions of voters into a 15-hour window on a single day, while 37 other states enjoy days or weeks to vote," said Susan Lerner, director of Common Cause-New York. "It's time to see if a unified Democratic government can truly deliver on progressive voting reforms."

Erie County Republican Elections Commissioner Ralph Mohr explains how the change will impact Erie County. "Polls will open 10 days before the election in at least 7 locations across Erie County where people from across the county can cast their ballots," he said.

Doesn't this increase the possibility of fraud and irregularities?  Democrat Elections Commissioner Jeremy Zellner said anyone who early votes and tries to vote again on election day will go to jail.

Another measure would consolidate state and federal primaries into a single election in June, replacing the current, often confusing calendar of multiple primaries.  Zellner said this moves up the political process a lot sooner in the year.  "We'll be doing petitioning a lot sooner, the vote will happen and then there will be a big time frame between the Primary and the general election in November".  The primaries would be consolidated into the fourth Tuesday in June. 

A third measure would preregister 16- and 17-year olds when they sign up for a driving permit so they would automatically be registered when they turn 18.

Lawmakers will also take up proposed state constitutional amendments that, if passed and approved by voters, would allow for registration on election day and rewrite the state's absentee voting rules to allow anyone to request an absentee ballot. Currently, voters must give a reason in order to vote absentee, such as chronic illness or travel plans.

"To me these are really commonsense reforms," said Sen. Zellnor Myrie, D-Brooklyn and the sponsor of the early voting bill.

Finally, lawmakers also plan to vote on a bill Monday to impose new campaign finance limits on contributions from limited liability corporations, ending a loophole that had allowed LLCs to contribute vast sums to campaigns without disclosing specific individuals giving the money.

New York was among the worst 10 states for turnout in both the 2016 and 2018 elections, continuing a decades-long trend of low turnout. Critics including good-government groups have blamed the state's voting rules for the apathy, saying onerous rules, multiple primaries and rigid registration deadlines keep many at home.

Supporters say the changes are likely to boost turnout most among groups that are typically underrepresented on Election Day, such as young voters and immigrants. Registered Democrats outnumber Republicans in New York by more than 2-to-1.

One change not scheduled to be considered on Monday would relax party enrollment deadlines before primaries. Current rules require voters to sign up with a party sometimes months ahead of a primary in order to cast a ballot. That led to widespread complaints in 2016 from voters who wanted to cast a ballot in the Democratic or Republican presidential primaries only to find that they needed to register with their party more than six months earlier. Two of Donald Trump's children were among the voters who missed the deadline and couldn't cast a GOP primary ballot.


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