Senator Myrie and New York Senate Passes Automatic Voter Registration

Zellnor Myrie

June 19, 2019

ALBANY, NY—Today, the New York Senate approved S6457, the NY Automatic Voter Registration Act of 2019, commonly referred to as AVR.   

Senate Elections Chair Zellnor Y. Myrie said, “This vote marks another voting rights victory  in what has already been a historic year for democracy in New York. As voting rights are under assault at the federal level and in states across the country, New York is removing barriers between voters and the ballot box by making it easier for people to make their voices heard.”

Automatic Voter Registration changes the voting process from an opt-in to an opt-out system.

There are two major approaches to Automatic Voter Registration. In front-end systems, people are offered the opportunity to opt-out during their interaction with government agencies. In back-end systems, eligible people who interact with certain government agencies are registered by default, then get the opportunity to opt-out afterward, typically by mail. S6457 would enact a front-end system, so that during the process of interacting with government agencies, individuals are given an explicit opportunity to opt-out of registration. The bill also requires agencies to explicitly warn non-citizens to decline the opportunity to share their information with the Board of Elections.

The approval of AVR is only the latest in one of the most productive legislative sessions on voting rights in decades. On the first day of this year’s legislative session, Senator Myrie sponsored S1102, a bill to allow Early Voting which was later signed into law by the Governor and then funded in the Enacted State Budget. In February, Senator Myrie later sponsored legislation to allow electronic poll books and helped to negotiate funding for the measure in the budget. In March, he led a hearing on Public Financing of elections, and in May, he led a hearing on AVR.

15 other states and DC already have or plan to implement some form of AVR.