In 2021, New York passed a number of pro-voter initiatives, however, two critical pieces of legislation that would have expanded voting rights ultimately failed at the ballot box. In response, the 2022 legislature had to craft temporary legislation to ensure all voters still had the option to vote absentee by mail. Although the legislature also passed a historic statewide voting rights act, the state’s surprising failure to enact same day voter registration and establish no-excuse absentee voting for all earned New York a B on this year’s progress report.
Where New York Started in 2020
- Automatic Voter Registration: Front-End
- Online Voter Registration: DMV ID
- Same-Day Registration: No
- Restoration of Rights: Parole and/or Probation Disenfranchisement
- Vote by Mail: Excuse-Only
- Electronic Registration Information Center Member: No
- Early Voting Opportunities: Regular Ballot Early Voting
- ID Requirements: No Document Required
Relying on the Cost of Voting Index for New York as of 2020, we considered the state a middle tier state for pre-existing voting policy and compared its 2021-22 activity against other middle tier states.
How Our Tier Compares:
2021: Two Years Ago
The Legislature passed two important pieces of legislation that gave voters the opportunity to amend the state constitution to expand voting rights during the 2021 general election. Unfortunately, neither law was ultimately passed by the voters.
- S 517 (Ballot Proposal 3) would have eliminated the 10 day voter registration deadline before elections and allowed same day registration.
- S 360 (Ballot Proposal 4) would have eliminated the need for voters to have an excuse to vote by mail.
The Legislature successfully passed several pro-voter pieces of legislation into law.
- S 830 shortened the timeframe that former felons are disenfranchised by allowing them to have their voting rights automatically restored upon release from incarceration. Previously, people on parole were disenfranchised unless pardoned by the governor.
- A 6970 required the State Board of Elections to set up a new online absentee ballot application portal.
- S 4306 the “Make Voting Easy Act” expanded early voting by increasing the number of locations that offer early voting and expanding allowable weekend voting hours.
- S 1027 modified several provisions related to mail ballots including allowing processing to begin before the close of polls and revising notice and cure provisions.
- Although the Legislature successfully passed proposals to get Ballot Proposals 3 and 4 before the voters during the 2021 general election, sadly, both proposals failed to pass due to the failure to run a robust voter education campaign on the benefits of these changes. As a result, anti-voter groups on the right were able to successfully defeat both initiatives in a low turnout off-cycle election.
2022: This Past Year
After the defeat of the pro-voter ballot proposals during the 2021 general election, legislators came back during the 2022 session and were able to successfully pass the historic “John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act,” which expands access to voting.
- S 1046 establishes a preclearance process that certain jurisdictions with a history of voting rights violations must follow before making changes to their existing election policies.
Because of the defeat of Ballot Proposal 4, the Legislature was forced to pass yet another pandemic-related fix to temporarily extend vote by mail access for all during the 2022 session.
- S 7565 allows voters to continue to use the pandemic as an excuse to vote absentee by mail through December 31, 2022.
Late in 2022, the Legislature also passed legislation to help ensure all eligible votes will be counted.
- S 284 ensures that if a voter casts provisional ballots in the wrong precinct within their county, any votes they were entitled to cast in that county will now be counted.
- New York was delayed in finalizing its contract with a vendor to manage the implementation of OVR/AVR, which may cause challenges for the state to go live with a modernized voter registration system.