New York enacts automatic voter registration

New York State

A woman and child walk past Laurae Caruth, right, volunteer with Christian Cultural Center Social Justice Initiative’s voter registration drive, as she sits at a table where she registers voters, Friday, Sept. 18, 2020, in the Brooklyn borough of New York. “I’m out here volunteering because of how important it is to exercise the right to vote,” Caruth said. In recent election cycles, predominantly Black congregations across the country have launched get-out-the-vote campaigns commonly referred to as “souls to the polls.” But instead of packing buses and vans to shuttle people to early voting sites this year, church leaders say they are organizing caravans for absentee ballot drop-offs and in-person early voting. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

ALBANY, N.Y. (WTEN) — Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday announced that he has signed New York’s Automatic Voter Registration Act of 2020 (S.8806/A.8280C) into law. According to the Office of the Governor, the electronic voter registration measures are meant to make it easier to get involved in the election process.

The act requires state agencies to establish a modernized, straightforward voter registration system that helps reduce red tape. Cuomo has pushed for legislation like this in his State of the State addresses in 2019 and 2020.

“The right to vote is one of, if not the most, sacred pillars of our democracy and for too long, bureaucratic red tape has made it unnecessarily difficult for New Yorkers to exercise this right,” Cuomo said in a statement. “From instituting early voting to making necessary reforms to the absentee ballot process, New York has already made elections more accessible, but we are far from finished. With this new law on the books, we are taking this work a step further and not only instituting automatic voter registration, but creating a single uniform platform for registering online.”

The new law designates agencies that interact directly with New Yorkers—like the Department of Motor Vehicles—to work with the Board of Elections to integrate signing up. A single document will serve as an application for services offered by the agency and a voter registration application. Eligible will also be able to select party affiliations.

For too long, bureaucratic red tape has made it unnecessarily difficult for New Yorkers to exercise this right.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo

“New York’s antiquated voter registration system is in dire need of updating and modernization,” said Brooklyn Assemblymember Latrice M. Walker, the prime sponsor the bill. “This bill will remove one of many barriers in our election system to help New York improve its dismal record of voter turnout,” she said. “This will reduce costs involved in processing voter registrations and maintaining updated and accurate voter registration lists.”

Implementing the “automatic” system will be delayed, with the DMV integrating in 2023. The Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance and Departments of Health and Labor will come online in 2024, with the State University of New York in 2025.

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