NY would au­to­mat­i­cally regis­ter vot­ers un­der re­vised bill

The Saratogian (Saratoga, NY) - - FRONT PAGE - By Ma­rina Vil­leneuve

ALBANY, N.Y. >> New York would au­to­mat­i­cally add to the vot­ing rolls any cit­i­zen who fills out a state form, un­der a re­vised bill that passed the state Se­nate on Thurs­day.

The bill tar­gets an es­ti­mated 1.1 mil­lion el­i­gi­ble New York­ers who aren’t on the voter rolls, said Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader An­drea Ste­wart-Cousins, vot­ing ad­vo­cates and other Democrats.

“We shouldn’t fear mak­ing it eas­ier for el­i­gi­ble vot­ers to vote,” Ste­wart-Cousins said.

The bill passed the state Se­nate 40-20. It now heads to the Assem­bly.

Se­nate Repub­li­cans, down to 22 seats in the cham­ber, ar­gued Democrats were try­ing to sway elec­tions in their fa­vor. The Se­nate GOP also failed to pass an amend­ment to re­peal a new bail re­form law that ends cash bail for many New York­ers.

Law­mak­ers scrapped a sim­i­lar au­to­matic voter reg­is­tra­tion bill last sum­mer be­cause of an er­ror in its word­ing.

Last year, law­mak­ers voted to au­tho­rize driver’s li­censes for im­mi­grants in the coun­try il­le­gally. The mis­take in the au­to­matic voter reg­is­tra­tion leg­is­la­tion would have in­ad­ver­tently added them to the vot­ing rolls, even though they are pro­hib­ited from cast­ing a bal­lot.

Law­mak­ers caught the mis­take in the ses­sion’s fi­nal days and had said they would try to pass the cor­rected bill again.

The re­vised bill adds lan­guage to pro­hibit state agen­cies from send­ing ap­pli­ca­tions from peo­ple “who are demon­stra­bly in­el­i­gi­ble to vote” to the state board of elec­tions, ac­cord­ing to an on­line sum­mary of the bill.

The new bill also pro­tects in­di­vid­u­als who ap­ply to regis­ter to vote with­out know­ing they are in­el­i­gi­ble.

Sup­port­ers said the leg­is­la­tion will mod­ern­ize voter reg­is­tra­tion, re­duce the chance of hu­man er­ror and save hun­dreds of thou­sands of dol­lars each year.

The Thurs­day vote on the re­vised leg­is­la­tion comes a day af­ter Demo­cratic Gov. An­drew Cuomo called for au­to­matic voter reg­is­tra­tion in New York in his an­nual State of the State ad­dress.

New York­ers, he said, must af­fir­ma­tively act to regis­ter to vote when in­ter­act­ing with state agen­cies and said the state should make it eas­ier to get reg­is­tered. At least 17 states and Washington, D.C., have started or have plans to im­ple­ment a sys­tem in which res­i­dents are au­to­mat­i­cally reg­is­tered to vote when they have con­tact with the state, typ­i­cally at the state’s mo­tor ve­hi­cle agency, un­less they de­cline.

Copy­right 2020 The As­so­ci­ated Press. All rights re­served. This ma­te­rial may not be pub­lished, broad­cast, rewrit­ten or re­dis­tributed.

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