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2019 Could Be the Year for NY Election Reform

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Proposed reforms to New York's election laws include early voting, online and automatic registration, and more. (BigGirlCamera/Twenty20)
Proposed reforms to New York's election laws include early voting, online and automatic registration, and more. (BigGirlCamera/Twenty20)
January 14, 2019

NEW YORK – Good government groups are hopeful that the New York State Legislature finally will pass long overdue election law reforms.

They blame antiquated election laws for New York having one of the lowest voter participation rates in the country, but a package of reform bills coming up for a vote in the Legislature could change that.

The package of seven bills includes a measure to sharply curtail the ability of limited liability corporations, or LLCs, to make virtually unlimited contributions to campaigns.

According to Marge Baker, executive vice president for policy and program at People for the American Way, other measures could dramatically increase voter turnout.

"It's got really important provisions around early voting and automatically updating registrations when people move – a whole set of provisions that will just make it easier for people to vote,” she explains. “And that has to strengthen our democracy."

Two provisions, allowing no-excuse absentee voting and same day voter registration, are amendments to the state constitution, requiring passage in two legislative sessions and voter approval.

Election law reform has been a high priority in New York for years, but previous efforts have failed to pass in the state Senate.

Baker maintains that with Democrats firmly in control of the Senate for the first time in years, that could change.

"These are very popular provisions, and ones that have been floating around for a long time and could make a huge difference,” she states. “There's a lot of activism organizing around this, so I think the prospects are quite good."

Reform advocates also are urging state lawmakers to pass legislation implementing a 6-to-1 small donor matching system for state elections.

The bills mirror many of the provisions of the For the People bill recently introduced on the federal level in the House of Representatives.

Baker says the New York legislation could establish the state as a national leader for election law reform.

"It's a great model and frankly, action on the state level and progress on the state level enhances the organizing for action at the federal level, too," she states.

Baker expects the For the People bill to be introduced soon in the U.S. Senate.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - NY