Photo: Bebeto Matthews, AP

Local Politicians Pushing for Statewide Election Law Reform

"Robust participation in our democracy benefits everyone."

October 11, 2018 - 2:25 pm

by Brendan Keany

BUFFALO (WBEN) - Voter suppression laws have been a topic of discussion, especially as midterms are closing in.

Thursday morning, State Senator Tim Kennedy and Assemblymember Monica Wallace joined local community leaders to launch a public push for stronger statewide voting reforms.

"We are highlighting the problems with election law here in the State of New York," said Kennedy. "We are going to Albany, and we are going to make changes to ensure the individuals across the state have an easier time voting, have more accessibility to voting, and have their voice when it comes to government."

In a report titled, "Why Don't More New Yorkers Vote? A Snapshot Identifying Low Voter Turnout," a survey was conducted with New Yorkers who didn't participate in the 2016 General Election, and here are some of the results that Kennedy and Wallace highlighted:

  • 79% of respondents said they would be more likely to vote in an election if early voting was enacted.
  • 76% of respondents said they would be more likely to vote in an election if no-excuse absentee voting was enacted.
  • 28% of respondents said they have missed an election because of work or school obligations.

In response to these statistics, Wallace outlined some of the changes that they want to implement.

"We're here to call attention to common sense election law reform like early voting, like no-excuse absentee balloting, and moving the party registration deadline closer to the election, so you can decide who to vote for and have a better sense of who you want to vote for closer to the election and register for that appropriate party."

The term "common sense election law reform" came up several times, so if it is "common sense," why were these laws not enacted in the first place? Kennedy had a pointed answer to that question.

"The Democratic assembly has passed voter reforms to ensure that this state is ahead of the game," began Kennedy. "The Republican majority in the senate has failed to bring the same bills to the floor for a vote, which basically, perpetuates voter suppression here in New York State."

According to Kennedy, New York State is well behind other states when it comes to election laws and voter suppression - something he says in unacceptable.

"There are dozens of states across this country that are ahead of New York State when it comes to voting rights," he said. "We have to ensure that New York State is leading the nation."

Wallace agrees with Kennedy's sentiment, and she specified early voting as one of her major concerns.

"The vast majority of other states have already passed early voting, New York is behind in this regard," said Wallace. "We want to see New York come up to speed and revise its election  laws to really reflect modern life."

Wallace also wanted to remind everyone that the voter registration deadline is Friday, and that democracy depends on citizens exercising their right to vote.

"A robust participation in our democracy benefits everyone," she said. "Our democracy requires participation. It is the responsibility of every citizen, so I encourage everybody to get out there to vote on election day."

Election day is November, 6.

Below, you can find the specific reforms that are co-sponsored by Kennedy and Wallace, along with a description of the bill via a press release:

  • Early Voting (S.7400-A/A.9608) - This bill would establish an Early Voting system to permit eligible voters in New York State to vote in person during a designated period prior to any primary, special, or general election day. This bill will also establish an Early Voting Fund to cover the expenses of early voting so that local governments are not unfairly burdened.
  • No-Excuse Absentee Voting (S.840/A.7623) - This bill would amend the state Constitution to allow for any voter to request to vote by mail without declaring reason.
  • Moving Party Change Deadline (S.7109/A.10842) - This bill would shorten the registration time requirement from before the previous general election to 25 days after filing paperwork. Currently, any registered voter who wishes to change his or her party enrollment, enroll in a party, or end enrollment in a party must do so at least 25 days before the previous general election.
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