From the NYS Assembly • Sheldon Silver, Speaker
Keith Wright • Chair, Election Law Committee
Legislation would implement Help America Vote Act
The Assembly passed two bills to bring New York into compliance with the Help America Vote Act, and a third bill to resolve longstanding partisan governance problems at the state Board of Elections.
Improving voting standards
The first of two bills that have been agreed upon by the joint legislative HAVA conference committee would create a statewide voter registration list (A.6733) by combining existing local lists maintained by local election boards. The integrated system would be administered by the state Board of Elections and would allow local Boards of Elections access through existing computer systems.
It’s essential that we bring our voter registration system up to HAVA standards. This bill does that, while still allowing local Boards of Elections to continue using their existing computer systems. The Assembly’s bill further requires the state Board of Elections to furnish information about deaths and felony convictions to local Boards of Elections so they can identify and remove those who are not eligible to vote.
Ensuring that the voting reform works
The second bill establishes an administrative complaint procedure that a voter may use to ensure compliance with HAVA reforms (A.6655).
The goal of HAVA is to ensure that all citizens who are eligible to vote are able to participate in our democracy. HAVA also seeks to ensure that every vote cast is counted. This bill encourages involvement in the electoral process by improving the integrity and efficiency of our elections.
Fostering bipartisanship in administering our election process
The Assembly also passed the state Board of Elections governance bill (A.6504), which would resolve longstanding partisan problems by appointing a bipartisan executive staff at the state Board of Elections. The bill awaits action in the state Senate.
If we’re to have fair and efficiently-run elections in this state, we can’t afford to contend with partisan conflicts within the Board of Elections. As we’ve seen this year already with the passage of an on-time budget, bipartisan cooperation is the best way to an effective government.
A real plan to improve voting
The Senate’s acceptance of the Assembly’s invitation to restart conference committees on Help America Vote Act compliance legislation is an encouraging sign of progress. However, the Assembly is eager to finalize legislation on which machines will be purchased to replace the lever machines and how the federal HAVA money will be distributed to county governments for the machines. The Assembly’s legislation would protect our voting rights by spelling out specific details on these issues in state law, while the Senate’s legislation would delegate how these issues would be addressed to state bureaucrats.
Similarly, the Assembly would safeguard our rights by specifically addressing how to guarantee the disabled will have access to polling places, and how to protect individuals from being prohibited from registering to vote as a result of bureaucratic processing errors. However, the Senate has so far been content to allow some eligible voters to be denied the right to cast their vote.
Elections are the lifeblood of our democracy. The Assembly’s legislation will help ensure they are run effectively in New York. The Assembly urges the Senate to pass these important measures and deliver them to the governor for his signature.
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