Package Passes in Assembly
This week the state Assembly passed a small package of voting reforms. The package included early voting, no-excuse absentee voting, electronic registration, and closing the LLC loophole (technically a campaign finance issue). We were very excited to see bi-partisan support from the Assembly on no-excuse absentee voting. This reform would amend the Constitution to remove the requirement of an "excuse" to vote via absentee. Constitutional amendments require passage during two legislative sessions with a state-wide election in-between. This year would be the ideal year to pass this amendment.
Many Assembly Republicans likened absentee voting to early voting which we don't necessarily agree with but we were happy to see so many of them vote in favor of the bill! You can read more about the Assembly's package
Executive Order Restoring Parolees' Voting Rights
We were very excited this week when Governor Cuomo announced he was issuing an executive order to restore parolee's right to vote. It was only within the last month that the State League Board accepted a recommendation by the Issues Committee to support this reform. Up until this point, we did not believe that the National position on voting rights covered restoring parolees' right to vote. We reviewed the position again after being asked about our position by several Local Leagues and other good-government organizations. We found that several other states supported this reform and we were able to approve our own support in March.
The executive order will allow the Governor to "pardon" all parolees so that their right to vote will be restored. Although we are pleased the Governor has taken the lead on this reform, we have many concerns over the actual roll out. There are no clear guidelines as to how or when the Governor will sign these commutations. There are also no clear deadlines as to when parolees' voting right will actually be restored. We are fearful that there will not be an adequate mechanism in place to alert parolees when their right has been restored. A lag between the time in which the commutation is signed and a parolee re-registered has the potential to prevent some parolees from exercising their opportunity to vote.
Next week, the Assembly Elections Committee will be taking up legislation that would amend election law to allow parolees to regain their right to vote immediately after serving their sentence. This bill will ensure that parolees are re-registered immediately and that they are informed their voting right has been restored in a timely manner. We will support this legislation and urge its passage.