After passing with sweeping majorities in the first legislative session of 2019, several statewide voting rights bills went before Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Thursday, who signed them into law.
"At a time when the federal government is doing everything it can to disenfranchise voters, we are breaking down the barriers that have discouraged too many generations of New Yorkers from exercising their right to vote," Cuomo said.
The voting rights bills going into effect include allowing up to 10 days of early voting, synchronizing federal and state primary elections, allowing minors to preregister to vote and allowing New York residents who move within the state to keep their voter registration.
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"In my house, voting wasn't a privilege," said Charles D. Lavine, chairman of the State Assembly's Committee on Election Law, about his parents who fled from Czarist Russia. "It was more than a right, it was an obligation."
In addition to the voting rights bills, Cuomo also signed into law a bill closing the "LLC Loophole," which previously allowed corporations and wealthy donors to funnel unlimited anonymous money into elections.
Same-day voter registration and no-excuse absentee voting were also passed by the State Senate earlier in January and signed on Thursday, but since they are New York State Constitutional Amendments, they will have to be passed again next year and then put to a popular vote referendum in order to go into effect.
Though early voting is now the law of the land in New York state, advocacy groups have criticized Cuomo for not including any mention of it in the Executive Budget presented on Jan. 15. Given that the New York State Association of Counties estimates that early voting would require up to $1 million per county, the absence is not insignificant, though the state Division of Budget contended that an online sales-tax proposal would cover the difference.
"This is only the beginning," Cuomo declared. "We are going to finish the job and enact additional reforms in this year's budget including automatic registration and extending upstate voting hours to once and for all make it easier for New Yorkers to make their voices heard at the ballot box."
In the future, Cuomo has supported several other resolutions, which include making Election Day a state holiday, automatic and online voter registration and allowing upstate New Yorkers to vote before noon.