Jennifer Wilson, Jennifer@lwvny.org
Governor Signs Legislation to Restore Voting Rights for all People on Parole
In May we were thrilled that the Governor finally signed into law legislation to allow any person on parole to have their right to vote restored automatically upon release. The law states that all individuals will be notified both verbally and in writing that their voting rights will be restored, and that the person will be provided a voter registration form and assistance in filling it out, along with voter education materials by the Board of Elections. Either the person registering or the Department of Corrections will transmit the completed registration application to the local board of the individual's residence.
The League will be updating all of our voter education materials regarding this issue in the coming weeks.
Legislature Passes Voter Registration and No Excuse Absentee Constitutional Amendments
In May Assembly passed two constitutional amendments to allow for no-excuse absentee voting and to remove the constitutionally mandated 10-day voter registration deadline. These amendments have already been passed by the Senate and will now appear as a ballot referendum in November. The League has long supported these amendments and will be urging voters to vote “Yes” on these ballot measures.
Safe Staffing Legislation Passed in Legislature
After many years of advocacy, the Legislature passed two safe staffing bills for nursing homes and hospitals to ensure both patients and healthcare workers are protected requiring them to meet minimum staffing levels of nurses and other health care staff.
Under the new laws, the state health commissioner will establish minimum staffing levels for nursing homes and will impose civil penalties if the homes fail to meet the minimum standards. Each resident would receive an average of 3.5 hours of care a day, with at least one hour from registered or licensed practical nurses and two hours from certified nursing assistants.
The new legislation also sets up clinical staffing committees in hospitals to determine staffing guidelines and decide the proper ratio between patients and staff. The panels would include hospital administrators as well as registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, and other staff members who provide direct patient care.
The League has been supportive of this legislation since 2016 and we are pleased it has finally passed.
Senate Passes Bill to Ensure Voters' Ballots are Not Discounted
This week the Senate took up legislation requiring boards of elections to count affidavit ballots of eligible voters if a voter appears at a polling place that is in the voter's correct county but incorrect election district.
Currently voters who show up to the wrong poll site are told to vote by affidavit ballot. Although these voters may not be eligible to vote in all races on the ballot, they are frequently qualified to vote in certain races that may appear. Rather than counting races where the voter was eligible to vote, the current law disqualifies the voter's entire ballot. Under the current law, 13,800 New York ballots in the 2020 General Election were disqualified because the voter appeared at the wrong poll site.
VoteEarlyNY has released a comprehensive report detailing the areas of the state where ballot disqualifications for this issue are most prevalent. You can find a copy of VoteEarlyNY's report here.
The League is supportive of this proposal and has additional information about all of the election issues we are continuing to work on in our Legislative Packet.
Remote Advocacy Training Recap
On May 12th, the League held a remote advocacy training on our post-budget legislative priorities. The training included an expert overview of the NY Health Act from our State Health Committee and Issues Specialists Madeline Zevon, Judy Esterquest, and Kathy Stein, and an overview of Medical Aid in Dying and Salary Parity issues from Barb Thomas, our Issues Specialist on Women's Issues and Medical Aid in Dying. LWVNYS VP of Issues and Advocacy, Sally Robinson, gave an overview of Joint Commission on Public Ethics reform, and Jennifer Wilson, LWVNYS Deputy Director, covered pending voting reforms.
The materials include memos of support for the bills, sample social media posts and letters to the editor, and information about each of the reforms we are supporting. We will continue to update these materials as things change between now and the end of the legislative session on June 10th.
If you missed the meeting you can watch the archived video here.
Local League members wishing to participate in advocacy meetings on behalf of the League should contact their Local League's Issues and Advocacy Chair or Local League President.
Petition for Clean School Buses in New York State
The League of Women Voters is partnering with the League of Conservation Voters on a petition to expedite the implementation of clean zero-emission electric school buses in New York State. Almost all of New York State's school buses currently run on dirty diesel fuel, which causes pollution that negatively impacts children's health and causes climate change. Diesel exhaust and its byproducts have been linked to respiratory diseases like asthma, cardiovascular illnesses, cancer, and higher mortality rates.
Clean, zero-emission electric school buses provide a clear alternative to improve air quality and protect children's health. We believe our elected officials need to prioritize policies that would provide funding, cut red tape, and minimize costs for school bus purchases throughout the state.