May 2004

Help America Vote Act

From the NYS Assembly • Sheldon Silver, Speaker
Keith Wright • Chair, Election Law Committee
Kevin A. Cahill, RoAnn M. Destito, Helene E. Weinstein •
Members, HAVA Conference Committee

Examples of photo ID documents include:

  • passport
  • driver’s license
  • non-driver’s card
  • student ID
  • pistol or firearm permit
  • pilot’s license
  • military or government identification
  • discount card issued by a public transportation authority

Other examples of acceptable forms of ID included:

  • current utility bill
  • bank statement
  • government check
  • government document that shows the name and address of the voter

Senate walks away from Help America Vote Act reforms

The Senate and Assembly recently reached a bipartisan agreement on important steps to reform New York State’s election process, but just days later the Senate Majority backed away.

After the Florida debacle during the 2000 presidential election, Congress passed the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) to overhaul the nation’s voting process. To receive federal funding to modernize state elections, New York and other states must comply with HAVA requirements.

The Assembly developed a comprehensive plan to increase voter turnout and empower all New Yorkers with a voting process that is more convenient and reliable. A bipartisan conference committee was created to work out differences between Assembly and Senate versions of the HAVA reforms.

Encouraging voter participation

New York State’s diverse geography and population requires an expanded list of identification for voters. Because of the state’s large urban areas and mass transit networks, New York has one of the lowest percentages of voting-age residents with driver’s licenses. In fact, almost 3.4 million voting-age citizens don’t have a state driver’s license (DMV/U.S. Census data). A wide variety of IDs must be accepted at polling sites on Election Day or voters will be disenfranchised.

To encourage greater voter participation, the Assembly’s HAVA reforms called for an inclusive list of acceptable forms of voter ID. As The New York Times reported on the HAVA Conference Committee’s May 10 meeting, the Senate “abandoned their attempts to limit the list of acceptable forms of identification to the vague language of the federal law.” Instead, the Senate moved to accept the Assembly’s more inclusive list, which empowers local boards of elections to determine what additional IDs would be allowed.

But just two days later, Senate members rejected the agreement and are once again insisting on an "exclusive" list of acceptable IDs that would disenfranchise voters. The Senate’s stunning turnaround now threatens New York’s ability to meet the federal HAVA mandate.

Assembly fighting to improve ballot access and voter confidence

Elections are the lifeblood of our democracy, but they are meaningless if voters are prevented from casting their ballots, or the voting system is dysfunctional. That’s why the Assembly is committed to improving New York State’s election process to ensure voter confidence and encourage broader participation for all citizens.

With elections quickly approaching, the Assembly urges the Senate’s immediate action on this important issue. The Assembly’s goal is that the federal HAVA guidelines are fairly and fully implemented so that all New York voters are given the opportunity to exercise their fundamental right to vote.

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