Governor Cuomo Signs Legislation To Streamline Absentee Voting Process

Governor’s Press Release:

S.3135/A.2687 Ensures Absentee Ballots Match Election Day Ballots

S.2038A/A.1922 Ensures New, Simplified Absentee Ballot Applications Are Used in School District Elections

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today signed legislation to ensure absentee ballots match ballots used to vote in the district on Election Day (S.3135/A.2687) and that the new, simplified absentee ballot applications created in 2010 are used in school district elections (S.2038A/A.1922). 

“This year we enacted historic reforms to modernize our antiquated voting process and strengthen our election system,” Governor Cuomo said. “These measures build on that progress by ensuring absentee ballots match the ballots that in-person voters use on Election Day and simplified absentee ballot applications are used in school district elections, making it easier for voters to exercise their fundamental right to vote.” 

Senator Zellnor Myrie said, “We don’t pull levers in the voting booth anymore, so our ballots shouldn’t be designed for lever pulling. This legislation gets rid of dated ballot formats so that our absentee ballots match our primary ballots and helps ensure our democracy works. I commend the Governor for supporting this legislation and look forward to its implementation.” 

Assembly Member Fred Thiele said, “I am thrilled that the Governor has signed my legislation (A.2687) to update the law and ensure that Election Day ballots and absentee ballots match. This, along with his approval of legislation to simplify absentee ballots used in school district elections (A.1922) continues the trend of making voting easier and more accessible for all New Yorkers. Voting is the inalienable right of every American but also a hallmark of our values and democracy. I am pleased to work with the Governor to advance these important voting reform measures.” 

Senator David Carlucci said, “Working with my colleagues, we have brought New York’s outdated election laws into the 21st century to increase voter turnout by removing barriers to vote. My legislation to simply the absentee voting process in school district elections will ensure everyone’s voices are heard. Thank you Governor Cuomo for signing this reform into law.” 

Assembly Member Sandy Galef said, “When New York reformed the absentee ballot process in 2010, school district elections were left out. As a result, voters using absentee ballots for school district elections had to use outdated, cumbersome absentee voting forms. This new law makes the absentee ballot process less intrusive, and it is my hope that it will help to increase voter turnout in New York State.” 

S.3135/A.2687 goes into effect immediately. S.2038A/A.1922 will take effect in 90 days. 

A key goal of the Governor’s 2019 Justice Agenda is to modernize New York’s voting laws to increase voter participation. On October 26, early voting went into effect for the first time, making it easier for New York voters to participate in elections without logistical burdens. These reforms will allow for eight days of early voting before an election, synchronize federal and state primary elections, allow voter preregistration for teenagers, provide voter registration portability within the state, and close the LLC loophole. 

In September, Governor Cuomo also signed legislation expediting party enrollment changes to make it easier for voters to participate in the upcoming primary elections. This removed the October 11 deadline and gives voters until February 14 to make changes to party enrollment and still vote in the April presidential and June congressional and state primaries. 

 

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Campaign Panel’s Proposal Threatens New York’s Minor Parties

Chris Bragg in the Times Union: “Drawing howls of protest from minor political parties and good-government groups, the commission empowered with rewriting state campaign laws voted Monday to make it substantially more difficult for minor parties to secure a place on the state ballot.

The nine-member commission’s main charge, conferred on it by the Legislature and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo earlier this year, has been to write rules establishing New York’s new publicly financed elections system. But the debate over its redesign of the “fusion voting” system, which gives third parties the ability to cross-endorse candidates if they hit the certain vote thresholds, has sucked up much of the public attention to its work.”

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Public Financing Coalition Wants Session To Change Recommendations

In State of Politics,Nick Reisman reports “Groups that have pushed for the public financing of campaigns wants state lawmakers to return before the end of the year and take up what it says are necessary changes to the recommendations proposed by a commission responsible for the specifics of the program.

The coalition, Fair Elections NY, broadly are seeking lower contribution limits than the caps of $18,000 for statewide office, $10,000 for the state Senate and $6,000 for the state Assembly, as proposed by the commission.”

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Dozens of Dem lawmakers set expectations for campaign commission

From Chris Bragg in the Times Union: “A group of 39 Democratic state lawmakers — 17 senators and 22 Assembly members — have asked the commission tasked with rewriting New York’s campaign laws to establish lower contribution limits, create oversight outside of the state Board of Elections, and maintain the current system empowering minor political parties.

The outreach by such a sizable legislative coalition carries significance because if final policies enacted by the Public Campaign Financing Commission are unacceptable to enough legislators, the Senate and Assembly could reconvene before the end of 2019 to amend aspects of the system. Otherwise, the measures put forth by the commission, due Dec. 1, will be legally binding.”

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Cuomo Announces Census Plan

Press release –

GOVERNOR CUOMO ANNOUNCES $60 MILLION TO SUPPORT COUNTING EVERY NEW YORKER IN THE 2020 CENSUS

State Agencies to Spend up to $40 Million on Census Initiatives

$20 Million from the FY 2020 Budget Made Available to Reach Hard to Count Residents

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that New York State will spend as much as $60 million to make sure that every New Yorker is counted in the upcoming 2020 U.S. Census. The State will leverage resources across dozens of agencies, public authorities, CUNY and SUNY that regularly interact with millions of New Yorkers. Together, they will launch a wide-reaching campaign valued at up to $40 million from existing resources that will inform the public about the Census and support efforts to encourage residents to complete the questionnaire. Additionally, $20 million from the FY 2020 Budget is being made available to support targeted efforts in hard to reach communities.

“Counting every New Yorker in the 2020 Census is critical to ensuring we are accurately represented in Congress and receive the federal funding we deserve,” Governor Cuomo said. “While the federal government has thrown up road block after road block – spreading fear among immigrant communities in the process – in New York we will break through and make sure that even our most difficult to reach communities are counted.”

The State’s support for the Census count builds on findings and recommendations released in October by the New York State Complete Count Commission, which held 10 public hearings and reviewed hundreds of comments, expert testimonies and in-depth analysis of previous census results. The Commission found that the 2020 Census faces unprecedented challenges. For the first time, the Census will be conducted primarily online, and while the Trump Administration failed in its effort to include a citizenship question on the Census, its attempt to do so spread fear among immigrant communities. The Trump administration and Congress have also failed to fully fund Census operations in the years leading up to 2020. As a result of that failure, the Census Bureau has been forced to cut costs, shifting responsibility for on-the-ground work necessary to drive participation in the 2020 Census from the federal government to state and local partners. The number of U.S. Census Bureau field offices in New York has dropped from 35 in 2010 to 21 in 2020.

To break through these barriers, CUNY, SUNY and dozens of other State agencies and authorities will use their resources and ongoing contact with the public to develop and deploy an up to $40 million from statewide Census awareness campaign using existing resources. These state entities, including the Departments of Labor, Motor Vehicles, Agriculture and Markets; the offices of Mental Health, Alcohol and Substance Abuse, and People with Developmental Disabilities; Empire State Development; and the Division of Veterans Affairs will conduct outreach and provide Census-related information across their millions of contacts with the public. While the U.S. Census Bureau is only providing translation for a fraction of the languages spoken in New York State, State employees are already trained to use the Language Line, which provides on the spot translation services for more than 200 languages. Examples of how State entities will leverage their resources include, but are not limited to:

The Department of Labor, which reaches more than 9 million workers, 550,000 businesses and serves more than 500,000 New Yorkers directly, will open all 96 of its Career Centers as census assistance centers where members of the public can securely complete their 2020 Census questionnaire online. Career Centers will also display Census information on TV monitors in the waiting room, posters and handouts in multiple languages. The Department of Labor has also already promoted Census Bureau jobs at more than 100 jobs fairs and other recruiting events it hosts in every region of the state.

Every New Yorker lives within 30 miles of one of SUNY’s 64 campuses and CUNY adds 25 campuses across New York City’s five boroughs, all of which can serve as nodes that combine outreach efforts with resources. The two university systems, including community colleges, will also collaborate with the State to ensure their nearly 700,000 students are counted. Empire State College will open dozens of computer labs across the state for members of the public to use to complete the Census.

The Department of Motor Vehicles has 27 state-run district offices and 94 county-run filed offices across the state through which it reaches about 12 million customers annually with 19.5 million connecting with the Department through its website. Census information will be displayed and distributed at every location and staff will be equipped to promote the Census in discussions with all visitors. It will also tap its database of approximately 4 million email addresses.

The FY 2020 Budget also appropriated up to $20 million to support Census outreach. A Request for Expressions of Interest will be released next week with a response due back in 30 days. The funding will be targeted to “trusted voice” not-for-profit organizations and will be focused on reaching hard to count communities, including those with high populations of immigrants, children under 5 years old, and seniors. Funding awards will be determined based on plans evaluated on a variety of factors, including presence of cooperating libraries and other institutions, proven capability of the organizations, and other factors.

These efforts will build on action already taken directly by the State that added over 225,000 addresses to the Census Bureau’s Master Address file. In addition, following leadership from New York State, local governments added and corrected several hundred thousand addresses. This multi-layered, multi-year effort produced nation-leading results. Governor Cuomo also invested $500 million to leverage $1.4 billion from to private sector to expand high-speed Internet to all New Yorkers with nearly 90% of the funding already awarded.

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Census Spending Is A Racial Justice Imperative

In a NY Daily News oped, Senator Zellnor Myrie writes “Take Brooklyn. Eighty percent of Brooklynites live in hard-to-count neighborhoods, and according to the Brooklyn Community Foundation, in 2010, Brooklyn had the lowest mail return rate in the country among counties with populations of 500,000 or more.

Of the 500 census tracts most at-risk of an undercount in New York state, almost half are located in Brooklyn. A state-appointed commission recently confirmed this risk, writing that “New York City has the highest percentage of at-risk populations for eight of the 10 metrics” and that “[T]he communities at the greatest risk of being undercounted warrant the greatest strategic focus by the State.

Back in March, the state Legislature agreed to direct $20 million in funds to census outreach efforts. Yet 230 days since those funds were allocated and 40 days since the state’s commission issued its census funding recommendations, those funds are nowhere to be found.

With only four months until the census begins, none of the money that we authorized for census outreach has been released. The community groups who are in most need of those funds and who are most equipped to effectively spread awareness about the census are being left high and dry.”

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NYC Bar: How To Get On The Ballot In NYC

How to Get on the Ballot in NYC
Tuesday, December 3, 2019 | 6:00 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.Program Fee:
Free for Members and Non-Lawyers | $15 Non-Members
Non-Lawyers please call Customer Relations to register at (212) 382-6663

Description:
This program will feature several respected election lawyers speaking about the process by which a person who wants to run for office can do so. Our aim is to provide an overview of what is an intimidating process, break it down to basics, and provide attendees with an understanding of what is necessary to run for office in New York City.
We will cover topics ranging from evaluating which offices you are qualified to run, the mechanics of petitioning, the administrative process of filing and defending your petitions at the Board of Elections, an overview of why and how petitions wind up the subject of court battles, and what happens when they do. There will also be information on a candidate’s responsibility to comply with Campaign Finance law, and a review of best practices for setting yourself up for a successful experience with those filings.

Speakers:
Martin E. Connor, Private Election Law Practitioner, 30 Years in the NYS Senate, Former NYS Senate Minority Leader, Immediate Past Chair, City Bar Election Law Committee
Douglas A. Kellner, Co-Chair, NYS Board of Elections (since 2005), U.S. Election Assistance Commission Standards Board, Former Commissioner NYC Board of Elections
Raphael Savino, Deputy General Counsel, Board of Elections in the City of New York
Sarah K. Steiner, Private Election Law Practitioner, Former Chair of City Bar Election Law Committee

Sponsoring Association Committees:
Election Law Committee | Katharine Loving, Chair
New York City Affairs Committee | John Owens Jr., Chair

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