Voting propositions for state Constitution on November ballot
Voters will have the opportunity to approve two voting-related changes to the state Constitution in November.
The state Assembly recently passed two pieces of legislation, A.502 and A.4431, to join the state Senate in passing the bills for the second time, which places them on the ballot in November.
A.502 would amend the state Constitution to delete the requirement voter registration be completed 10 days before an election. It passed the Assembly 104-43 with both Assemblyman Joe Giglio, R-Gowanda, and Assemblyman Andrew Goodell, R-Jamestown, voting against the provision. The Senate passed the bill Jan. 12 in a 42-20 vote with Sen. George Borrello, R-Sunset Bay, voting against.
“Just this year we witnessed an embarrassing situation where New York state was one of the last states in the entire nation to certify a Congressional election — it went beyond three months,” Goodell said. “Amongst the issues that the parties were litigating extensively was the difficulty of implementing automatic voter registration and then making sure the voter rolls are updated and everyone has an opportunity to vote. We all want as many people as possible to vote. It’s an important civic responsibility. At the same time we also want to make sure that every voter registration is properly processed, that the people who are submitting the registration are properly authorized and qualified to vote in an election. Those are not always easy issues.”
Goodell said he has seen cases over a voter’s eligibility reach the state Court of Appeals in cases that determined partisan control of county legislatures. Same-day registration he said, makes it much more difficult to make sure voters are eligible and may end up further delaying certifying winners of elections.
Supporters say same-day voter registration can increase voter participation in elections, and that other states have been able to implement same-day voter registration with few problems.
“Today, with the passage of this constitutional amendment and hopefully with its ratification by the people of the state of New York, we will do away with an antiquated time period and allow for this body to debate how best to make sure all New Yorkers who are eligible to vote are able to vote. And that debate should be centered around 21st cent technology and best practices from around our country. It happens to be with 21st century technology and best practices from around our country we will see that making it possible for New Yorkers to register and vote as close to the election as possible is the best policy. They do it in other states, They do it during early voting in other states. There is no reason New York can’t do it. There’s no reason we can’t make sure we secure and verify those votes.”
Also passing this week was A.4431, which would remove the provision in state law requiring a voter to provide a reason for absentee voting. The state Constitution only allows absentee voting currently if a person expects to be absent from the-county in which they live or because of illness or physical disability.
Goodell said he was in favor of expanding absentee voting before New York implemented early voting as a way of increasing voter turnout. Early voting had decreased the need for absentee ballots, Goodell said, before the COVID-19 pandemic struck — and with the pandemic’s effects beginning to wane the Jamestown Republican said voters should be able to provide a reason why they can’t vote either on Election Day or at an early voting site.
“My concern, of course, is that as we eliminate any excuse and we look at other legislation that’s actually on our calendar today, we can see the move is to eliminate any signature requirements for absentee ballots but no requirement that voter rolls be purged of people who are no longer alive or no longer residing where they should be residing,” Goodell said. “So we’re seeing a substantial erosion in all the provision we normally would look to to help ensure voter integrity. This isn’t he last constitutional amendment on this subject. As with the other ones it makes it easier for those who are not eligible to vote or should not be voting or are taking advantage of our system to obtain a ballot with no excuse whatsoever with no justification whatsoever even though they have two weeks to vote and thereby circumvent any voter integrity provisions. So while I’ve supported this in the past, with the advent of early voting I cannot support it today.”
The legislation, sponsored by Assemblyman Clyde Vanel, D-Queens Village, had passed the Assembly every year from 2016 through 2019, though it has only in the state Senate in the last two years. It was passed by the Senate this year on Jan. 12 in a 42-20 vote with Borrello voting against.
“So now what does this constitutional amendment do?” Vanel asked rhetorically on the Assembly floor. “This amendment removes the reason for being able to file an absentee ballot, making it easier for people to vote. Keep in mind I really believe, New Yorkers, all of us, on both sides, believe that the proper authentication must happen when it comes to absentee ballots. Proper authentication must happen when it comes to voting. Even with that we must make sure the franchise of voting is easier, and people are able to vote.”