Speaker Carl Heastie, Elections Committee Chair Charles Lavine and Assemblymember Latrice Walker announced that the Assembly passed legislation to make it easier for eligible voters to register to vote by creating a system for automatic voter registration (A.8280-C, Walker).
Across the country, we have seen states increase barriers to vote. The Assembly Majority believes that democracy is best served by making it easier, not harder for eligible voters to cast their ballot, Speaker Heastie said. By allowing automatic voter registration, no New Yorker will have to worry that they will not be able to exercise their constitutional right to vote.
Our democratic process relies on the ability of people to exercise their right to vote, Assemblymember Lavine said. Creating a system of automatic registration will keep our voter rolls up to date and ensure that all New Yorkers votes are accounted for come Election Day.
Here in New York, we do not believe that registering to vote should be a barrier to voting in our democracy, Assemblymember Walker said. I am proud that this bill will make it easier for New Yorkers to register to vote while simultaneously interacting with various state, city, and county agencies. I am proud that my bill is moving us in the right direction on the issue of voter rights.
The legislation would make it easier for eligible voters to register to vote by creating automatic voter registration in New York State. This process would allow state and local agencies to provide the New York State Board of Elections with voter registration information for people that submit an application for services or assistance. Agencies participating in this program will include the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), the Department of Health, the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance, the Department of Labor, the Office of Vocational and Educational Services, city and county departments of social services, the New York City Housing Authority and other agencies designated by the governor in the future.
The portion of the form pertaining to voter registration would list eligibility criteria for registering to vote and require that the applicant attest that they meet such criteria. It will also include a warning about penalties for those who are not eligible, but willfully register anyway. Those filling out forms will be able to decline registering by selecting a box on the voter registration part of the form. Voters would also be able to enroll in a political party and would be informed that they must do so to vote in a partys primary election.
To date, 19 states and the District of Columbia have implemented automatic voter registration.
The Assembly also passed several bills to promote the timely use of absentee ballots during the COVID-19 pandemic and minimize the chance that such ballots will be held invalid, including:
- Assuring voters concerned about the transmission of COVID-19 that they may obtain an absentee ballot (A.10833, Dinowitz);
- Allowing applications for absentee ballots to be processed earlier than 30 days before the election, as provided by current law (A.10807, Taylor);
- Imposing a presumption that an absentee ballot envelope without a postmark is timely if it is received at the board of elections by mail the day after the election (A.10808-A Bichotte); and
- Allowing a number of current defects on an absentee ballot envelope to be timely cured by a voter after notice from the board of elections (A.10830, Lavine).