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New York’s Democracy Just Got Fairer

Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed bills to make voting easier and combat the influence of special interests. Now, the nation’s fourth-largest state has a chance to go further.

January 24, 2019

It’s now easier for people to vote in New York and harder for special interests to wield influence over the state’s elections.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed into law on Thursday bills that will establish early voting in New York and close the so-called “LLC loophole.” The loophole is a campaign finance rule created by the state’s Board of Elections that has allowed special interest groups to funnel tens of millions of dollars into political campaigns, circumventing contribution limits and disclosure requirements.  

The legislation marked the first measures to be introduced in the 2019 legislative session and passed in the New York State Senate last Monday. The Brennan Center has long supported early voting and long advocated for closing the LLC loophole — both in court and in Albany.

New York has for years suffered from an outdated voting system and was one of just a few states without early voting, which has led to long lines at the polls. The state ranked 41st in the country on voter turnout for the 2016 presidential election. States such as North Carolina and Ohio have also justified cutting back on early voting periods by pointing to the fact that New York did not provide early voting at all.

Early voting will make the voting process more convenient and accessible for New York voters, especially for those who face logistical challenges on Election Day, such as work schedules, commutes, or bad weather. “Early voting is going to be transformative for the system,” Cuomo said at a signing ceremony in New York City.

Thursday’s signing marks a big step for New York toward a modern election system. But it should be just the beginning. Cuomo has signaled his support for farther-reaching democracy reforms, automatic voter registration (AVR) and small donor public financing, both in his 2019 legislative agenda and in his proposed budget.

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 and add hundreds of thousands of eligible voters to the rolls. 

A small-donor public financing system would help get big money out of New York politics by increasing the participation of small donors in elections. Under such a system, small donations from citizens to participating candidates are matched by multiple matching public funds. 

More from the Brennan Center on all of these policies:

(Image: Getty/Drew Angerer)