State

Early voting, automatic and same-day registration may be coming to New York under newly proposed bill

Frankie Prijatel | Senior Staff Photographer

A newly proposed bill from New York state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is trying to make voting more accessible in New York.

New York state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman recently rolled out a plan that could make the New York voting process more accessible for the public.

The New York Votes Act, which was proposed by Schneiderman, would make early voting, automatic voter registration and same-day registration available for New York residents. The act could have effects in Onondaga County.

During the presidential primary last year, the attorney general’s office received 1,500 calls of complaint from voters, according to the office. That number was 10 times higher than any previous election, the office has said.

“Any law that makes it easier to vote is a good law; any law that makes it harder to vote is a bad law,” Schneiderman said in a press release. “The New York Votes Act will help our state become a national leader in protecting and expanding voting rights for New Yorkers.”

Dustin Czarny, one of Onondaga County’s Board of Elections commissioners, said that because Election Day usually takes place at the beginning of a month where people tend to move, that currently affects people’s ability to register to vote.

“If you move from outside of city or outside of county, you won’t be able to register to vote because the deadline has already passed,” he said.

Those who miss the deadline need to follow court orders to restore their rights to cast a ballot, Czarny said.

But with same-day voter registration, he said people would be allowed to update their addresses and register to vote right before the election.

Schneiderman’s bill also permits a registered voter to vote two weeks prior to any scheduled election. Currently, 37 states and the District of Columbia have allowed early voting, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

With same-day voter registration and early voting, Czarny said he thinks there will be an increase in New York voter turnout.

“(It) allows campaigns and voters to be able to have more convenience to vote on Election Day or before Election Day,” he said.

He added that early voting brings convenience to voters because it can lead to shorter lines at voting stations on Election Day, which in turn can lead to an increase in participation.

“There are a lot of people who wanted to take part in this election and they thought ‘I’m in a state of early voting,’” he said. “They came into our office wanting to vote, and they can’t.”

Czarny said Onondaga County doesn’t see long lines at polling places because over 180 poll sites are located throughout the region, but added that there are still delays during peak times in presidential elections.

“If we have early voting and automated registration, a lot of court orders will be unnecessary,” the elections commissioner said, adding that they issued more than 200 court orders last year on Election Day to allow people to register and vote.

Schneiderman’s law will not take effect unless the state legislature passes the proposed bill.

Those changes might apply to this year’s mayoral election if the bill is passed, Czarny said, adding that that might create challenges for Onondaga County’s elections office.

“Once it gets into the process, it’s going to be very hard for Board of Elections to adjust this within a small period of time,” he said.

However, it’s still unclear whether the legislature will support the bill because state legislators often have partisan views on voting matters, Czarny said.

This is also one of the reasons why New York is lagging behind other states when it comes to voting systems and procedures, he added.

“We have a divided legislature that doesn’t seem to be able to come to an agreement,” Czarny said. “It’s time for the Empire State to join the rest of the country.”

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