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Governor Hochul signs legislative package to strengthen democracy and protect voting rights

Published on September 21, 2023

Governor Hochul Signs Voting Bill September 2023

ALBANY, NY- A legislative package signed this week by New York Governor Kathy Hochul is aimed to strengthen democracy and protect voting rights.

“New York State remains committed to strengthening our democratic process, championing the right to vote for every citizen and cementing our place as a national leader on voting rights,” she said.

“By safeguarding the integrity of our electoral process and ensuring equal access to the ballot box, we empower every New Yorker to have their voice heard.”

This legislative package builds upon New York State's ongoing efforts to improve and protect access to the ballot box for all New Yorkers, including last year's enactment of the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act of New York, the most expansive state level voting rights act in the country.

Although there appears to be praise echoing from Hochul’s Democratic colleagues, other state lawmakers, including North Country Senator Mark Walczyk, are slamming the passing of this legislative package.

"Voters of New York State do not want this, county board of elections did not ask for this," said Walczyk.

"The only people who approve this law are self-serving Albany Democrats who have become so unpopular they've stooped to electoral rules changes to embezzle power from the voting public."

According to Walczyk’s office, one of the bills signed by Governor Hochul allows New Yorkers to obtain an absentee ballot for any reason through an application to the board of elections.

This bill subsequently removes the requirement of a reasonable excuse to obtain an absentee ballot, according to Senator Walczyk.

Here is a complete list of bills (from the Governor’s Office) signed in this legislative package:

Legislation (S. 6195/A.1177) allows absentee ballots to be counted if they have been taped and show no signs of tampering.

Legislation (S. 5984-A/A. 6132-A) creates a “Golden Day” on the first day of the early voting period when New Yorkers can register to vote and cast their ballots at their polling place all on the same day.

Legislation (S. 6519-A/A. 1565-A) establishes a deadline for changing location of a polling place for an early voting period.

Legislation (S. 7394-A/A. 7632-A) establishes a system for early voting by mail. This legislation will create a process allowing all eligible, registered New York State voters the opportunity to vote early by mail in advance of an election. A new application process will be developed to facilitate voter requests for early mail ballots pursuant to this legislation. Voters will be able to request mail ballots up to ten days prior to the election in which they would like to vote early by mail; boards of election will then provide mail ballots with postage paid return envelopes to all eligible and registered voters. Early mail ballots must then be mailed back to the appropriate board of elections no later than election day and must be received by the board no later than seven days after election day. This legislation represents a significant expansion of ballot access in New York State, and will provide millions of New York voters with an easy, safe, and secure means of voting early by mail ballot.

Legislation (S. 5965-A/A. 4009-A) requires local jails to provide voter registration information to individuals of voting age being released from a local correctional facility.

Legislation (S. 587/A.268) requires the New York State Board of Elections to develop and provide a training program for poll workers.

Legislation (S. 1733-A/A.5180-A) requires local boards of education, BOCES, charter schools and non-public schools to adopt policies to promote student voter registration and pre-registration.

Legislation (S. 7550/A. 7690) schedules the Presidential Primary Election for April 2, 2024.

Legislation (S. 350/A. 5874) prohibits “forum shopping” in constitutional challenges for election cases.

Legislation (S. 438/A. 928) prohibits “faithless electors” from impacting the outcome of a presidential election. New York has 29 electoral votes that go to the presidential candidate who receives the highest number of votes within the state. However, individuals chosen as members of the Electoral College can – and do – subvert democracy by people by casting their electoral votes for a candidate who did not win the highest number of votes. Under this new law, rogue electors who try to disregard the will of the people will be forced to resign.

Governor Hochul image.

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