During the opening week of the 2020 New York State legislative session, NYS Senator Joseph P. Addabbo, Jr. joined with his Senate colleagues in approving a package of bills, including two he co-sponsors, that are designed to increase voter participation in elections throughout New York and make it easier for citizens to register to vote.
“This package of important reforms will improve New York’s existing early voting law by making pre-Election Day voting opportunities much more available and accessible to citizens throughout the state,” said Addabbo. “In addition, the proposals seek to increase overall voter participation and accessibility to the polls in our democracy: which are very worthy goals given our state’s abysmally low turnout during most elections.”
The first bill co-sponsored by Addabbo (S.6457) would create a system of automatic voter registration connected to certain applications filed by New Yorkers through the State Department of Motor Vehicles and State Department of Health. “Under the proposal, qualified individuals interacting with these two state agencies would be provided with forms that would automatically register them to vote unless they specifically decline,” he explained. “This will help to increase the number of eligible voters in New York and encourage greater participation in elections.” A number of safeguards are included in the legislation to ensure that non-citizens and others ineligible to vote are not inadvertently registered.
The second bill co-sponsored by Addabbo (S.6805) would authorize state and local departments of transportation to provide message boards on roadways that would advertise important voter-related information, including deadlines to register to vote, absentee ballot requirements, and pertinent messages about upcoming election dates. “This would be a valuable way to ensure that voters don’t miss out on important information that affects their ability to participate in elections, and enable them to plan ahead to ensure that their votes count,” said Addabbo.
Other proposals in the voting reform legislative package included bills to:
- Ensure that more municipalities throughout New York State provide early voting locations (S.6754, S.6923, and S.6925);
- Explore options for offering mobile polling places for early voting (S.6926, and otherwise make it easier for state residents to legally and safely cast their ballots prior to designated election days;
- Minimize disruption in the education of New York’s children by exempting school buildings from being used as early voting sites (S.6930); and
- Address certain issues with college campus voting requirements and polling places (S.4378.)
“Last year, we made significant progress in making voting easier and more accessible to state residents, and I am hopeful 2020 will bring even more valuable reforms,” said Addabbo.