New York AG recommends fix to restrictive voting laws
The New York attorney general has proposed a package of bills aimed at improving to what he said are “arcane” and “ridiculous” voting laws that bar many potential New York voters from casting ballots.
Attorney General Eric Schneiderman began a statewide inquiry after his office received a record number of complaints about lack of voter access during the April presidential primary.
“In New York, we have what amounts to legal voter suppression,” Schneiderman said Tuesday at a news conference in Albany.
He said the “profound and widespread” issues include disappearing polling places and poorly trained poll workers who turned away voters seeking affidavit ballots. Many polls that were open saw long lines and reduced hours.
And he said laws that have resulted in New York’s third-worst voter participation in the nation and fifth-worst voter registration numbers need to be changed.
Schneiderman’s recommendations include getting rid of a six-month waiting period to change party enrollment before a primary. That rule prevented Donald Trump’s own children from voting for their father in the New York Republican presidential primary in April.
Schneiderman also wants early voting and voters to be able to obtain and mail in absentee ballots without having to come up with a reason, essentially enacting voting by mail. He also thinks eligible voters should be automatically registered, and that they should be able to register to vote on Election Day.
The attorney general was joined by numerous government reform groups.
The state legislature has in the past resisted changes to voter access, and Schneiderman acknowledged that the current laws benefit many incumbents, who may find it easier to win with fewer new voters.
But he said the makeup of the Senate and Assembly is changing and may be more receptive to reforms, especially with all of the national attention that voter access is now receiving.
“There’s been a huge generational shift in the makeup of the legislature,” he said.
During the April primary, many supporters of Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders complained that New York’s strict laws shut them out of the ballot box. Schneiderman said his report found no evidence that if his proposed changes were in effect, the outcome of the primary vote would have been any different, noting that Hillary Clinton had a lot of support in the state.
But he said if the changes resulted in doubling the amount of regular voters in New York, it could “transform” election outcomes in the future.