NY Senate passes series of election reform bills

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ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Some New York lawmakers are taking on election reform as the state and the country prepare for a big upcoming election year.

“During our first day of the session, we passed historic election bills that allow New Yorkers to vote more easily,” said Senate Majority Leader, Andrea Stewart Cousins.

Senate Majority Leader Cousins and other Senate Democrats met on Monday to discuss their package of election and voting law changes.

Their plan is to expand voting on college campuses, empower New York voters to participate in democracy, and continue protecting voters at the polls amidst the ongoing pandemic. 

They also approved a bill that would allow local election officials to use drop-off boxes to collect absentee ballots.  

“These are special design boxes that allow voters to conveniently drop off a completed absentee ballot at their designated location. It would be like dropping off a FedEx package or a book at the library,” said NY. Deputy Majority Leader Michael Gianaris.

The voting reforms passed by the Senate Democratic Majority includes:

  • COVID Absentee Voting For School District Elections: This bill, S.7619, sponsored by Senator Shelley Mayer, allows voters who are concerned about voting in-person due to an epidemic or disease outbreak to request an absentee ballot for school district elections in 2022. 
  • COVID Absentee Voting for General Elections: This bill, S.7565B, sponsored by Senator Alessandra Biaggi, extends legislation allowing COVID as an excuse for absentee voting for elections. 
  • Voter Registration at Second residence: This bill, S.6214, sponsored by Senator Zellnor  Myrie, codifies the right of voters to register at a second residence. 
  • Democracy Preservation Act: This bill, S.1126A, sponsored by Deputy Majority Leader Michael Gianaris, prohibits corporate contributions from companies owned by foreign entities or owners. 
  • Polling Place On College Campuses: This bill, S.4658, sponsored by Senator Kevin Parker, designates polling places for voting on college campuses under certain circumstances. 
  • Candidate Order on Ballots: This bill, S.1283, sponsored by Senator Todd Kaminsky, adjusts the candidate order on ballots to prevent voter dropoff.
  • Portable Polling Locations for Early Voting: This bill, S.557, sponsored by Senator Rachel May, amends the election law to allow counties the option to establish two or more locations for portable polling places for early voting. 
  • Absentee Ballot Drop-off Box Locations: This bill, S.492, sponsored by Senator Brad Hoylman, allows local Board of Elections to establish absentee ballot drop-off locations to provide voters with a convenient alternative option to submit their absentee ballots. 
  • Validation of Ballots: This bill, S.253, sponsored by Senator Zellnor Myrie, requires the canvassing of paper ballots when the express intentions of the voter are unambiguous. 
  • Counting of Affidavit Ballots: This bill, S.284A, sponsored by Senator Zellnor Myrie, requires counting affidavit ballots of eligible voters if a voter appears at a polling place in the correct county but in the incorrect election district. 
  • Reduction of Time for Mailing and Receipty of Registration to Constitutional Minimum: This bill, S.2951, sponsored by Senator Brian Kavanagh, reduces the time to register to vote to the Constitutional minimum, ten days before an election for primary and general elections. 

This follows Governor Kathy Hochul’s announcement in December that she wants the NY Legislature to begin the process of changing the State Constitution to allow for no-excuse absentee voting and same-day voter registration.

Peter Kosinski, Commissioner at the New York State Board of Election believes this could open the door for fraud.

“I think it opens up a system where there can be a manipulation of voting; you can have people requesting ballots for people who may not want an absentee ballot. It also allows them to control where the ballot goes and it may lead to fraud or other issues,”

New York expanded their absentee ballot voting in the 2020 election. The state says there was no widespread voter fraud because of it.

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