A voter casts his ballot at a polling place in Suffolk County on Nov. 4, 2014.

On the first day of the 2019 legislative session in Albany, both chambers of the new York State Legislature acted to bring sweeping reform to the state’s antiquated voting laws.

Among the reforms are initiatives to establish a nine-day early voting period,enable 16 and 17 year olds to pre-register to vote, and consolidate the state and federal primary elections into one day. 

“The Assembly Majority is committed to making it easier, not harder for New Yorkers to exercise their constitutional right to vote,” state Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx) said. “I am proud that we will once again pass these reforms to expand access to our democratic process and make our electoral system more transparent.”

Bills were also passed to make it easier for voters who move within the state to transfer their voter registrations to their new addresses, and to amend the State Constitution to allow voting by mail and reform existing absentee ballot rules. The constitutional amendment would require voter approval during a referendum.

“Our democratic process is dependent on our ability to ensure New Yorkers are able to exercise their fundamental right to vote with ease,” said state Assemb. Charles Lavine (D-Glen Cove, who chairs the election law committee. “These bills will ensure accessibility and encourage participation in our electoral system, while bringing transparency to our campaign finance laws. Now more than ever, we need to stand up and protect our democratic process.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who also called for legislation making Election Day a holiday to ensure workers have time to vote, among other proposals, intends to sign the bills into law.

“At a time when the federal government is doing everything it can to disenfranchise voters, we are taking action to make it easier for New Yorkers to participate in the democratic process,” Cuomo said. “These proposals will not only modernize our voting laws, they will remove barriers that have prevented and discouraged voters from exercising their sacred right to vote.” 

-With QNS

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