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New York State Assembly Votes on Legislation Increasing Ballot Access for Voters

Posted by 
J.M. Lesinski
J.M. Lesinski
 2021-05-14

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Photo by J.M. Lesinski

As voting rights continue to be a high priority issue across the United States, lawmakers in Albany, New York are acting on the matter swiftly and decisively.

The New York State Assembly recently announced the passage of some crucial legislation to expand voter access to voting via absentee ballot in New York state by removing the previous constitutional barrier to absentee ballots designated “no excuse,” which would permit voters to be able to request absentee ballots online.

“The Assembly Majority is committed to making it easier for voters to exercise their constitutional right to vote,” New York State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said of the legislation. “These bills will increase accessibility to the polls and continue some of the safety precautions we began taking during the pandemic. As we see states roll back access to voting, New York will fight to make sure every eligible voter is able to have their voice heard.”

A second constitutional change was also put on the ballot for November that would allow New York state voters to register and vote the same day on Election Day, making the electoral process more accessible to voters at a faster pace. Being the second passage for both of these constitutional amendments, the next step forward will be the voter’s approval in November.

“Voting is an integral part of ensuring a functioning democracy, and part of our civic duty as Americans,” said Election Law Committee Chair Latrice Walker. “The Assembly Majority will continue working to ensure every eligible voter has access to the ballot – whether in person or by absentee ballot – and is able to have their voice heard.”

The constitutional amendment passing finally permits New Yorkers a “no excuse” absentee ballot, making the voting process that much more accessible to New Yorkers unable to make it into the polls on Election Day. Under current New York state law, when a voter is unable to vote in person, they must provide a specific reason why in order to obtain their absentee ballot.

“Over the last year, throughout the global health crisis, we saw how important voting by mail was to ensure voters could cast their ballots,” New York State Assembly Member Clyde Vanel said of the legislation. “This bill would remove requirements and barriers to receiving an absentee ballot and ensure that New York voters are able to vote.”

Two other bills of interest were also part of the legislation package. The first, allowing voters to request absentee ballots electronically, simultaneously making voting easier for millions of New Yorkers and maintaining safety precautions set in place by the COVID-19 pandemic. The second would make Election Day the last day for an absentee ballot to be postmarked, consistent with the deadline for hand-delivered absentee ballots.

“These bills will make it easier for New Yorkers to vote using an absentee ballot,” New York State Assembly Member Rodneyse Bichotte Hermelyn said. “By allowing voters to use electronic means to request a ballot, and allowing ballots postmarked on Election Day to be counted, we will help ensure that all voters’ voices are heard and counted.”

The elimination of the requirement that voters must register to vote at least ten days before an election has some bold aspirations. With the new legislation, voters would be allowed to register to vote and then vote right on Election Day itself.

“This legislation will make it easier for eligible New Yorkers to exercise their right to vote here in New York,” New York State Assembly Member Robert C. Carroll said of the legislature. “We should be removing barriers to voting, not adding them like we are seeing in other parts of the country. This measure will increase voter participation and ensure every voter has their voice heard.

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