NY Elections Set for Big Step Forward

Bills to make voting easier and combat the influence of special interests sailed through the legislature, and even more far-reaching reforms could be on the way.

January 14, 2019

This post was updated 1/16/19.

New York's election system took a major step forward this week. On Monday, lawmakers passed bills to make voting easier and reduce the influence of money in politics. And on Tuesday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo got squarely behind even more far-reaching democracy reforms. 

The legislation that passed Monday, the first measures to be introduced in 2019, contained several voting reforms, including establishing early voting in New York, something the Brennan Center has long supported. New York is one of the few states that doesn’t currently offer early voting. A slew of problems at the polls in recent elections has focused attention on the need to improve access to the ballot in the Empire State.

Also passing was a measure to close the LLC loophole, which has allowed special interests to get around campaign finance laws. The Brennan Center has challenged the LLC loophole in court.

Cuomo has expressed support for both policies.

Then Tuesday, Cuomo released his proposed budget, which includes both automatic voter registration (AVR) and small donor public financing.

AVR, which is now law in 15 states, would automatically register to vote any eligible New Yorker when they give information to the DMV or social service agencies, unless they opt out. It would streamline the registration process, adding hundreds of thousands of eligible voters to the rolls. 

And the small donor public financing proposal, modeled on New York City's successful law, would match any donation of $175 or less by six to one. It would transform the way campaigns are funded in New York, amplifying the voices of ordinary citizens and reducing the outsized sway of big money and special interests.

"Bold democracy reform requires bold leadership, and today the governor demonstrated just that," said Brennan Center president Michael Waldman. "The policies he proposed — small donor public financing and automatic voter registration — will bring more New Yorkers into the process. More people will have access to the ballot box and regular New Yorkers will have a much stronger voice in Albany. These reforms are fundamental, and they will make New York a model for the rest of the country." 

More from the Brennan Center on all of these policies:

• Early voting

• LLC loophole (including Brennan Center for Justice v. New York State Board of Elections)

• Automatic voter registration

• Small donor public financing for political campaigns

(Image: Daniel Barry/Getty))