If they didn't know already, the breakdowns on Election Day reminded voters that New York has some of the most antiquated voting laws and processes in the country. From a lack of early voting to the fact that voters must declare a party affiliation more than six months before a primary, New York can make voting hard.
"On this issue, we're way far behind. New York is one of only 13 states that doesn't have early voting," said Susan Lerner, the executive director of advocacy group Common Cause New York. "Texas adopted early voting in 1996. So it's embarrassing."
But change may be at hand. Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday laid out voting reform as a top priority in the new year, specifically:
- Voting by mail
- Early voting
- Same-day and automatic voter registration, which advocates say would add as many as 2 million new voters to the rolls.
- Consolidating federal and state primary elections, which this year took place three months apart.
But the big surprise was this: "Let's make a real statement about the importance of voting and let's make Election Day a state holiday and say to people, 'Get out and vote,'" Cuomo said as he laid out his 2019 agenda.
That idea came as news to good-government advocates like Lerner, who helped form a coalition called Let New York Vote. Even they had never pushed for an Election Day holiday.
"Frankly, we weren't aspirational enough to put it on a priority list because we weren't hearing anybody in the legislature talk about it," Lerner said. "So good for the governor for coming up with a new idea."
If lawmakers were to pass such a bill, not every worker would get the day off since it wouldn't be a federal holiday, but state employees would be off.
The hope is to improve New York's notoriously low voter turnout and avoid the kind of chaos that played out across the city last month.