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RELEASE: Vote Better NY Coalition's 'Voter Day in Albany'

RELEASE: May 3, 2016

Vote Better NY Holds "Voter Day in Albany," Calls on Lawmakers to Put Voters First

The Vote Better NY coalition declared today "Voter Day in Albany," a day of action aimed at modernizing how New Yorkers register to vote and cast their ballots. On the heels of deeply troubling problems at the polls during the April 19th presidential primary, roughly 200 citizen advocates will meet with lawmakers to share their personal voting experiences and make the case for fundamental reform to New York's antiquated election laws. Join the conversation happening around election reform today with the hashtag #VoteBetterNY.

The coalition delivered a petition for reform signed by more 6,500 New Yorkers to Governor Cuomo, Assembly Speaker Heastie and Senate Majority Leader Flanagan.

Specifically, the Vote Better NY advocates call on lawmakers to adopt the following common-sense reforms:

  • Early voting: (A8582/S3813B) New Yorkers should have a two-week period including Saturdays and Sundays to ease long lines on Election Day and give voters flexibility as they juggle work and family obligations.
  • Voter Empowerment Act:  (A5972/S2538B) to ensure every eligible citizen is registered to vote and make it easier to update their voting information.  
  • Voter Friendly Ballot Act:  (A3389 and S7086) to create a ballot that is easier to read and understand so that every voter can cast a ballot that counts.

"Voters are sick and tired of how our elections are run. We are sick and tired of the barriers we face when trying to cast a ballot. We are sick and tired of election laws that are designed to benefit elected officials, rather than we the voters," said Onida Coward Mayers, Director of Voter Assistance at NYC Votes and the New York City Campaign Finance Board. "We’ve heard a lot in recent months about reform in Albany. The goal of those reforms is to give voters the power to hold their elected representatives accountable. We are saying that starts by fixing our election system so voters can make their voices heard clearly at the ballot box.”

Senate Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said, "The easier we make it for eligible voters to participate the better it is for our democracy. Elections should be about the will of the people and not the special interests. If we truly want to clean up Albany we have to engage voters and allow them easier access to vote."

State Senator Michael Gianaris said, "There is no good reason why our citizens are made to jump through hoops just to exercise their democratic rights. We must do all we can to increase New York’s dismal voter participation rates and have a process that encourages, rather than discourages, increased voter participation.”

State Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh said, "It becomes clearer with each election that the ability of New Yorkers to participate in our democracy is impaired by a broken process for registering to vote, casting a ballot, and having it properly counted. While logistical failures and administrative errors are a big part of the problem, it is clear that inadequate, antiquated, and burdensome laws also play a major role. The advocacy efforts of the Vote Better NY coalition focus on reforming these laws in three critical areas, through bills I've introduced: fully modernizing and transforming voter registration through the Voter Empowerment Act, instituting early voting, and ensuring ballots are clear and usable through the Voter Friendly Ballot Act. I look forward to working with the coalition, and with my colleagues in the Assembly and the Senate, especially Senate sponsors Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Michael Gianaris, Election Law chair Michael Cusick, and Assemblymember Latrice Walker, all of whom have been leaders on these issues, to do the vital work necessary to strengthen this most basic aspect of our democracy. I am confident that together, we can meet the challenge of implementing a system that is fair, transparent, and accessible to all."

Assemblymember Latrice Walker said, "I commend the Vote Better NY Coalition for supporting my legislation that would improve citizens’ right to vote. My legislation – The Modernized Voter Registration Act (A.8626) – is an omnibus bill that comprehensively protects the right to vote in New York. My bill would allow same day registration; allow early voting, allow voter registration via the internet; allow 16-year olds to register and vote in certain elections; and codify Section 5 Pre-Clearance procedures for New York State."

State Senator Avella said, "It’s ridiculous that New Yorkers vote on ballots designed for machines no longer in use. The solution is simple: Pass the Voter Friendly Ballot Act so New Yorkers can cast ballots that count.”

State Senator Bill Perkins said, "Voting is a universal and hallmark right of individuals in a democracy; one that should be embraced, encouraged and extended.  As the longstanding sponsor of same-day voter registration legislation, I am proud to support the progressive package of bills under the umbrella of Vote Better NY—owing to the clear fact that each will empower all of our citizens to be heard and, in many ways, democratize the very process of voting."

State Senator Daniel Squadron said, "Too often, Albany stands in the way of common-sense voting and election laws that allow more New Yorkers to exercise their right to vote. Automatic voter registration and allowing early voting are both important steps. I thank Democratic Conference Leader Stewart-Cousins, Senator Gianaris, my colleagues, the Vote Better coalition including NYC Votes, NYPIRG, Citizens Union, NAACP, and Dominicanos USA for their continued focus on improving voting laws."

State Senator Jose Peralta said, “It is time that we, in New York, step into the 21st Century and modernize our electoral system. It is vital that we simplify the process to combat voter apathy and low turnout. The New York election system needs a colossal reform that would solidify our democratic process. I applaud  the Vote Better NY coalition’s efforts to modernize the system and its support for early voting, expanded voter registration and calls for a clear and concise ballot design."

State Senator Brad Hoylman said: “I don’t think anyone could be encouraged by our state’s performance in this primary season. From puzzling ballot layouts to prohibitive voter registration rules, New York’s byzantine electoral system has proven to be at best ineffective and at worst discriminatory. I’m grateful to Vote Better NY for bringing attention to an issue that goes to heart of our democratic system, and look forward to working with my colleagues to create a better, fairer, and more open electoral process for all New Yorkers.”

State Senator Jose Serrano said, "The right to vote is a fundamental right that we should be seeking to expand, not restrict. I have been an ally in the fight to protect voters rights for many years and will continue to advocate for increased access to the ballot box."

State Senator Liz Krueger said, "Voting is the most fundamental right of a citizen in our democracy, but our process is in desperate need of reform. As the recent primary election demonstrated, there are many barriers that prevent a large number New Yorkers from exercising their right to vote. It’s time for New York to step up and be a leader in improving voting access and participation, by passing common sense reforms that help everyone get to the polls and have their voices heard.”

State Senator Leroy Comrie said, "The catastrophe known as New York's election law was on national display last month.  It has been widely reported that New York's deadline for switching enrollment in a political party is the longest in the nation.  Couple that with the widespread purging of voter registrations in New York City and it's not hard to see why New York has one of the worst voter turnout rates in the nation. That's why modernizing voter registration must be supported. I urge my colleagues in the Senate to approve this important legislation." 

State Assemblymember Michael Cusick said, "As Chair of the Assembly Committee on Election Law we are constantly seeking ways to make the voting process simpler, fairer, and more transparent to ensure all citizens are able to exercise their right to vote. Expanding early voting, simplifying the ballot & modernizing the registration process including electronic poll books are some of the ways we can accomplish this goal, and I want to thank the Vote Better NY coalition for presenting their vision here today."

State Assemblymember Ellen Jaffee said, “These bills will strengthen New York State’s electoral process by reducing barriers and expanding voting access for all New Yorkers, especially our working people, seniors, and the disabled. Voting is a fundamental right in our democracy.  It’s time for New York to do everything we can to encourage greater voter participation.”

Blair Horner, Executive Director of NYPIRG said, "The April presidential primary put on full display the dramatic shortcomings that New York’s archaic voter registration and election administration systems permit. Still, it's clear that young people want to participate in elections, NYPIRG sees it every day on campus. Reforms like the Voter Empowerment Act are no-brainers. It's time for Albany to pass real voter reform bills."

Eddie Cuesta, New York director of Dominicanos USA said, "It's an honor to be a part of this effort once again in Albany. We have been working on the ground to engage voters in New York City registering and mobilizing nearly 95,000 people over the past three years. We know first hand the challenges voters face in getting involved. We need fundamental reform to remove those barriers."

Lucas Almonte, legislative director for the CUNY University Student Senate said, "New York’s paper-based voter registration system disadvantages young voters, particularly at a place like CUNY where many students do not have a DMV id. Voter registration should be electronic and easy. Our state’s lack of early voting, makes it challenging for voters like me, juggling college and work schedules, to cast a ballot. With national attention focused on the problems in New York’s presidential primary election, now is the perfect time to fundamentally change our state’s election laws and bring them into the 21st century."

Chanel Turnquest of the Syracuse NAACP Youth Chapter, said, “New York’s democracy is in crisis. Just 20% of eligible New Yorkers turned out to vote in 2014 and 2 million voting-eligible New Yorkers haven’t even bothered to register. The students I work with at Syracuse are say more voter education is needed. We need to change the laws to make sure we’re not shutting out anyone who wants to be engaged in the political process. I also support passage of the Modernized Voter Registration Act by Assembly Member Walker, which will promote voting access and protect the right to vote for all New Yorkers.”

Jaime Estades, Latino Leadership Institute, said, "The history of voting in the United States is the history of voter suppression. Unfortunately, New York State has some of the most archaic voting laws in the nation. Therefore, we question the State’s commitment to making engagement accessible to all. It’s time to upgrade our elections. We urge lawmakers to bring early voting and automatic voter registration to New York.”

Shawn Bobb, president of the Epsilon Sigma Chapter of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity said, "Expanding opportunities to vote and making the process easier is crucial to ensuring eligible voters are able to exercise this vital right. Epsilon Sigma Chapter, Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity fully supports these endeavors."

Carmela Barrow of the Zeta Phi Beta, Sigma Nu Zeta Chapter said, "Voter access is the key to the democratic process. When we expand access to all voters we truly reflect the will of the people and ensure all voices are heard."

Janet Pierro, president of the Continental Societies, Inc. - New York Chapter, said, "It is important that we expand access to voting. We have made progress in securing the right to vote for all eligible Americans, however many voters still face difficulties in the voting process."
Follow Coalition Vote Better NY's progress in the state capitol on Tuesday by following us on Twitter and Facebook.

Our Voter Day partners include the following:

Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority - Delta Rho Omega Chapter
Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority - Syracuse University Iota Upsilon Chapter
Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity - Westchester Eta Zeta Lambda Chapter
Asian American Federation
Bronx Works
Chinese American Voters Federation
Citizens Union
The Continental Societies Incorporated
The City University of New York
CUNY University Student Senate
Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. – East Kings County Alumnae Chapter
Dominicanos USA
Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies - Children's Village
Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies - Harlem Dowling West Side Center
Generation Citizen
Greater Ridgewood Youth Council, Inc.
Jack and Jill of America - Brooklyn Chapter
Korean American League for Civic Action (KALCA)
Latino Leadership Institute
League of Women Voters of New York City
Live On NY
MinKwon Center for Community Action
National Conference of Puerto Rican Women - NY Chapter
National Woman's Political Caucus
The New American Leaders Project
New York Immigration Coalition
New York Public Interest Research Group
NYC Votes
NYU Lutheran Families Health Centers
Omega Phi Beta Sorority, Inc.
Organizing for Action - Bronx Chapter
Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. - Epsilon Sigma Chapter
Richmond Hill Economic Development Council
Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc. - Theta Rho Sigma Chapter
Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. - Sigma Nu Zeta Chapter
NAACP-New York State
NAACP Brooklyn
NAACP-Mid-Town
NAACP NYCHA
NAACP Brookhaven
NAACP Buffalo State College
NAACP Sullivan County
NAACP Syracuse Chapter
NAACP Syracuse Youth Chapter
NAACP Eastern Long Island
NAACP Central Long Island
NAACP Freeport/Roosevelt
NAACP Hempstead
NAACP Huntington
NAACP Islip Town

NYC Votes is the non-partisan voter engagement campaign of the New York City Campaign Finance Board (CFB) and its Voter Assistance Advisory Committee (VAAC). In addition to promoting voter registration, participation, and civic engagement in New York City through its many programs and partnerships, NYC Votes sponsors the city’s official Debate Program and produces the citywide Voter Guide.

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