New York state lawmakers are finalizing legislation that could expand early voting options in New York while also speeding up the process of counting absentee ballots in New York.
Taken together, the bills are meant to address what have become growing concerns with voting access and the timely reporting of results on the night of Election Day. The measures also come as early voting was held for the first time in a presidential election year in New York and as more voters cast ballots via absentee amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Our state Senate has come a long way towards reforming New York’s election laws, but there is more to do," said Sen. Mike Gianaris, the deputy majority leader. "These bills will dramatically reduce the long Early Voting lines we experienced last year and ensure we won’t have to wait weeks on end to discover who wins an election.”
Lawmakers in the state Senate on Thursday approved a bill that would require at least one early voting site in a county's largest city or municipality. The bill also requires counties with at least 500,000 voters have at least one early voting site per 40,000 registered voters.
The bill comes after Attorney General Letitia James successfully sued the Rensselaer County Board of Elections to include an early voting site in the city of Troy. Other cities in upstate New York have had similar issues with early voting polling sites.
“Last month, the Central New York legislative delegation stood together to demand additional early voting sites in Onondaga County which currently has just six, the fewest allowed under current state law and the fewest of any large county," said Sen John Mannion, a Democrat from Central New York. "The 2020 election demonstrated that early voting is extremely popular and additional sites are needed to meet the public demand. Fostering participation in our democracy and building trust in our electoral systems is the right thing to do."
Hours later on Thursday, the bill cleared the state Assembly and now goes to Gov. Andrew Cuomo's for his approval.
“Over two and a half million New Yorkers voted early in 2020 despite the pandemic and long lines,” saiid Assemblywoman Latrice Walker, the chair of the chamber's Election Committee. “This legislation will encourage even greater early voting participation in New York by expanding the number of site locations throughout the state and extending polling times.”