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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.

  • Brennan Center for Justice
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))