New York State Senate Passes Automatic Voter Registration Bill
The New York State Senate on Thursday approved a measure that would automatically register state residents to vote when they file applications at the Departments of Health or Motor Vehicles.
The bill, which passed by a 40-20 vote, builds on election reforms passed during the state’s 2019 legislative session.
“At a time in our country when voting rights are under assault, New York must live up to its potential as a progressive leader,” said the bill’s sponsor, Senate Deputy Leader Michael Gianaris.
“Access to the ballot box should be easy and fair, and enacting automatic voter registration would go a long way towards improving our democracy,” he said.
The passage of the automatic voter registration bill was expected. Lawmakers had planned to pass it last summer, but an earlier version of the bill was found to contain a critical error.
Last year, the New York State Legislature voted to authorize driver’s licenses for immigrants in the country illegally. The original wording of the Gianaris bill would have inadvertently added them to the voting rolls, even though they are prohibited from casting a ballot.
It has been estimated that there are about 1.1 million New Yorkers who are eligible to vote, but remain unregistered.
The passage of the revised legislation comes a day after Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo called for automatic voter registration in New York in his annual State of the State address.
He said New Yorkers must affirmatively act to register to vote when interacting with state agencies and said the state should make it easier to get registered.
At least 17 states and the District of Columbia have started or have plans to implement a system in which residents are automatically registered to vote when they have contact with the state, typically at the state’s motor vehicle agency, unless they decline.
“We are proud to once again be a part of passing a historic package of election reforms to modernize voting in New York State,” said Jennifer Wilson, deputy director of the League of Women Voters of New York State, after the Senate vote.
“This package of reforms will further empower voters and ensure maximum voting accessibility in all regions of New York State,” she said.
“It is exciting that the Let NY Vote coalition started 2020 the same way we did in 2019: by standing with the State Senate as our priorities passed,” said Susan Lerner, executive director of Common Cause/NY and co-founder of Let NY Vote.
“Automatic voter registration will streamline the way eligible New Yorkers register to vote, while providing adequate safeguards to protect the most vulnerable populations. Now the Assembly must follow the Senate’s lead and bring New York in line with the 16 other states that already have some form of AVR. We can’t wait, it’s time to let New York vote!” Lerner said.
In The News
As the longest economic expansion in American history continued last year, state governments increased salaries for teachers and other public employees, authorized new construction projects and — recognizing good times won’t last forever — added to reserve funds. Cash reserves could become more important this year,... Read More
ATLANTA — Three federal judges hearing a legal challenge to a Florida measure allowing felons to vote asked tough questions of the attorney for Gov. Ron DeSantis on Tuesday, repeatedly asking about the fairness of a subsequent bill that levied what critics called a “poll tax.”... Read More
A divided federal appeals court overturned election rules in Arizona Monday on the grounds they discriminate against black, Latino and Native American voters. In a 7-4 ruling, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down an Arizona requirement that ballots cast in the wrong precinct... Read More
WASHINGTON - The story is a familiar one if you've been reading or talking about battleground and swing states this election cycle. Thanks to a combination of Donald Trump’s razor-thin wins and Hillary Clinton's narrow losses in 2016, and the changing demographics of state electorates, a... Read More
WASHINGTON -- Speaking before the U.S. Conference of Mayors Wednesday, former New York City mayor and current Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg promised local leaders will always have "a seat at the table" if he is elected president. Particularly when it comes to deciding how and... Read More
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Two years after the U.S. Supreme Court removed legal barriers to sports betting, California voters could be asked in November to join 14 other states in allowing legal wagers on athletic contests, creating a lucrative industry worth billions of dollars and intense competition... Read More