Tuesday, December 6, 2016

NY AG Releases New Statewide Voting Protections And Reforms

New York Attorney General (AG) Schneiderman releases Comprehensive Report Examining Unprecedented Number Of Voter Complaints During April Presidential Primary And Proposes New Statewide Voting Protections And Reforms: AG’s Civil Rights Bureau Uncovers Significant Barriers To Voting Before And During Elections Throughout New York State, Investigation By Attorney General’s Office Into The Purge Of More Than 100,000 Voters In Kings County Is Ongoing.

Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced the results of his Office’s Statewide inquiry into widespread voter complaints received before, during, and after the April 2016 Presidential Primary. The inquiry found New York’s current Election system erects significant barriers to voter access in at least two major ways: first, the State’s rules, laws, procedures, and practices governing voter registration prevented many New Yorkers from participating in the primary; second, some of the rules, laws, procedures, and practices governing voting itself restricted Voter Access to the ballot. The 1,500 calls to the office’s Voter Protection hotline during the Presidential Primary were 10 times higher than any previous Election.

“The voting issues we uncovered during the April primary were widespread, systemic and unacceptable,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “The right to vote is the right that protects all other rights. New York must become a national leader by protecting and expanding voting rights throughout the state.”

To follow up on individual voter complaints, the Attorney General’s office contacted eight Boards of Election (BOEs) throughout the State: New York City (which covers Bronx, Kings, New York, Queens and Richmond Counties), Nassau, Suffolk, Westchester, Erie, Onondaga, Monroe, and Albany Counties. After the Primary, the Office of the Attorney General sent letters to the BOEs that oversee Elections in each of these Counties requesting information regarding individual Voter Registration files, Voter Registration policies and procedures, and Affidavit and Absentee balloting information. Investigators also spoke with Representatives of the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) and the New York State Board of Elections.

Results of the Inquiry:

Nearly two-thirds of complaints received by the Attorney General’s office involved barriers posed by Voter Registration rules, laws, procedures and practices, including:

- Voters not affiliated with the Democratic or Republican Party had to meet exceedingly restrictive deadlines for Party enrollment in order to vote in the Primary.

- Voters were barred from voting because State Agencies did not transmit Registration information in a timely way, or at all, to Local BOEs.

- The DMV’s Online Registration system stalled twice and ultimately went offline after receiving an unprecedentedly high volume of registration requests prior to the deadline.

- Voters were barred from voting because of errors on the part of Local BOEs in processing Registrations.

An additional 20% of complaints involved barriers posed by unwieldy laws, rules, procedures and practices related to the voting process, such as:

- Local BOEs inhibited voter access to affidavit ballots.

- Reduced poll hours in select Counties led to confusion and prevented some voters from voting.

- Voters were confused about their polling locations because they were not warned their polling place had moved.

CLICK HERE to read the 32 page (PDF) “Report On Voter Access In The 2016 Presidential Primary”.

To help alleviate these challenges, Attorney General Schneiderman also pledged to introduce the 2017 New York Votes Act, a comprehensive bill to reform the State’s Voting systems. The reforms are aimed at simplifying the voting process, boosting voter registration, and expanding voter turnout. The reforms include:

Voter Registration

Automatic Registration of Eligible Voters
Any State or Local “source agency” that collects information from a person who has formal contact with that agency as part of an application, Registration or other similar process would be required to Automatically electronically transmit identifying information for that person (e.g., name, address, date of birth, driver’s license number, Social Security Number) to the New York State Board of Elections (BOE) for inclusion in a Statewide Voter Registration database.

Same-Day Registration For New Voters

Amend New York State Election Law to permit a qualified person who is not registered to vote in the State to appear personally at the appropriate polling place on the day of any Primary, General or Special Election, Register to Vote, and simultaneously cast his or her ballot. Once the Registration is vetted, the voter’s ballot would be counted, and the voter would be added to the Voting Rolls

Online Voter Registration

Allow Electronic Voter Registration, so that any qualified registrant can complete the entire Registration Process Online via a desktop computer or handheld device

Create a System of Permanent Voter Registration

Implement a system of “permanent” Voter Registration in the State by requiring the State BOE and Local BOEs to update the Registration of any consenting voter who moves within the State and submits change of address information to officials at designated Government agencies.

Allow Registered Voters to Change Their Party Enrollment Closer to Primary Day

Allow already-registered voters to change their Party affiliation up to 25 days (if so postmarked by mail) or up to ten days (if delivered in person to the local BOE) prior to any Primary Election


Adopt a System of Early Voting

Permit a Registered Voter to vote at the Local BOE in the same County or City where the voter is registered, and at one or more other designated polling places, seven days per week (excluding certain holidays) starting two weeks before an Election

Provide for “No Excuse” Absentee Voting

Repeal, in its entirety, the current requirement that Absentee ballots can only be obtained and cast by otherwise qualified voters if they meet one of several statutorily-enumerated justifications for obtaining such ballots. The bill also would allow online submission of applications for Absentee ballots.

- Ensure Uniformity of Poll Site Hours Across the State

- Require poll sites to open at 6:00 a.m. and close at 9:00 p.m. during all Primary Elections.

- Consolidate Federal, State and Local Primaries on Single Day.

- Hold all Statewide Primary Elections on one day in early June.

Enact Disaster Preparedness Protections

Vest authority in the Governor to delay Elections; create procedures for relocating poll sites and extended Absentee voting periods after a disaster; and provide broad authority to the State BOE to create the rules and plans necessary to conduct an Election during an emergency

Enhance Access to the Ballot

Increase Language Access

Whenever any local BOE finds that 3% of the voting-age residents of an Election Precinct have Limited English Proficiency, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, it shall provide ballots as well as registration or voting notices, forms, instructions, assistance, and other materials or information relating to the electoral process in the Primary Language of the population in question, in a manner that provides the same opportunity for access and participation as voters whose primary language is English

Protect Voters from Improper Challenges

Require a good faith basis and supporting documentation for anyone challenging voter eligibility on Election Day, as well as penalties for those who abuse this provision of the law

Restore Voting Rights for Citizens on Parole

Restore voting rights to parolees with felony convictions. Restoration would not be contingent upon payment of fees, fines, restitution, or other legal financial obligations

Enhance Poll Worker Training and Recruitment

Mandate all poll workers in the State complete training approved by the State BOE. Also, help Local BOEs strengthen existing training programs

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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