BILL NO A00234 SAME AS No same as SPONSOR Cahill (MS) COSPNSR Dinowitz, Brook-Krasny MLTSPNSR Brennan, Colton, Galef, Jacobs, Lopez P, McEneny, Reilly, Weisenberg Rpld S4-116 subs 2 & 3, S4-108 sub 1 c & d, S5-204 sub 4, S4-117 sub 2, amd SS4-108, 4-120, 4-128, 5-204, 4-117, 16-100, add Art 7 Title 3 SS7-300 - 7-314, S16-105, El L Provides for the state board of elections to prepare and distribute to each voter a ballot pamphlet for every general election; provides for contents thereof and makes numerous related provisions including the distribution of information relating to each ballot proposal that is submitted to a statewide vote at such general election; permits any person eligible to vote on any ballot proposal to institute a proceeding as to the factual accuracy of statements or constitutional amendments.Go to top
BILL NO A00234 01/05/2011 referred to election law 01/04/2012 referred to election lawGo to top
There are no votes for this bill in this legislative session.Go to top
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NEW YORK STATE ASSEMBLY
MEMORANDUM IN SUPPORT OF LEGISLATION
submitted in accordance with Assembly Rule III, Sec 1(f)
BILL NUMBER: A234 SPONSOR: Cahill (MS)
TITLE OF BILL: An act to amend the election law, in relation to the preparation, contents and distribution of a paper pamphlet containing information relative to general elections, to repeal certain provisions of the election law, relating to distribution of copies of proposed amendments to the constitution or other propositions or questions; and providing for the repeal of such provisions upon expiration thereof   PURPOSE OR GENERAL IDEA OF BILL: This bill provides for the prepara- tion and distribution of a ballot pamphlet which would help educate the electorate about the proposals appearing on the ballot. It would also contain voter registration information.   SUMMARY OF SPECIFIC PROVISION: This bill provides for the preparation and distribution of a ballot pamphlet which would contain the following: l) an introductory statement explaining the date and hours during which the polls will be open for the general election; 2) voter qualification requirements in New York State; 3) when, where, and how to register to vote; 4) when and how absentee ballots are obtained and used; 5) instructions on how to vote including the use of affidavit ballots; 6) any other general information on voting deemed necessary or useful to the electorate. In addition to the above information, materials would be prepared and included in the ballot pamphlet for each ballot proposal that is submit- ted to a statewide vote at the general election. The material would include the following: l) A true copy of the form of the ballot proposal, as it will appear on the ballot; 2) a concise explanation stating the nature and effect of the ballot proposal; 3) a summary of the major arguments for its passage; 4) a summary of the major arguments against its passage; and 5) the full text of the ballot proposal, with all additions to the state constitution to be indicated by the use of italic type and all deletions to be indicated by the use of brackets. The preparation of the ballot proposal materials will be done in the following manner: 1) All material relating to a ballot proposal would be prepared by a seven member committee. Both the Majority Leader of the Senate and the Speaker of the Assembly would each appoint two members to the committee. The Minority Leader of the Senate and the Minority Leader of the Assem- bly would jointly appoint two members to the committee. The seventh member of the committee would be the attorney general who would serve as the Chairperson of the committee. Any proceeding to contest the factual accuracy of statements on consti- tutional amendments, questions and propositions in the ballot pamphlet itself would be instituted by any eligible voter in the state no later than ten days after the state board certifies the final contents of the ballot pamphlet and must be concluded at least fifty days before the election in which the ballot proposals addressed in the pamphlet are to appear. The Board of Elections shall report to the Governor and the Legislature on or before March 1, 2017 on the effectiveness of ballot pamphlets in increasing voter awareness, registration and participation and make recommendations as to continuing and improving this title.   JUSTIFICATION: In past elections, New York State voters have been asked to approve ballot propositions which call for the expenditure of billions of dollars and affect the lives of millions of people. While it is necessary for ballot propositions and constitutional amendments to be presented to voters in language that is legally precise, this language often is indecipherable to many citizens. As a result, many voters are uncertain of what is being proposed and are confused over the actual position which their "yes" or "no" vote represents. Many voters are so discouraged that they make no decision at all. In 1988, approximately 60% of voters did not vote on the Transportation Bond Act. In 1993, 53% of voters did not vote on three statewide ballot questions on state debt. According to the State Board of Elections, almost 63% of actual voters (and 77% of registered voters) did not vote on the Environmental Bond Act in 1996. In other states including California, Massachusetts, Montana, Washing- ton, Arizona and Oregon where the ballot pamphlet has been utilized, there has been noticeable increases in voter responses to ballot propo- sitions. In Massachusetts, 93% of their voters cast ballots on their proposition in 1986 and voting on ballot proposals has risen an average of 15% since the implementation of the Ballot Pamphlet (Citizen Union). In addition, New York City passed an extensive ballot pamphlet proposal in 1988 to educate the public on ballot proposals   AND candidates for office. Increased voter awareness and participation more than justifies the cost of a ballot pamphlet particularly in light of the huge expenditures voters are being asked to approve in ballot proposals. In addition, the pamphlet would contain basic voting information which is otherwise hard to come by. For instance, providing information on how to register, vote and obtain absentee ballots, would assist thou- sands of people who attempt to call boards of elections and who either never get through or receive unsatisfactory answers.   PRIOR LEGISLATIVE HISTORY: 2009-2010: A.957 - Referred to Election Law 2007-2008: A.7802 - Referred to Election Law 2004: A.471 - Rules 2003: A.471 - Election 2002: A.243-B Passed Assembly 2001: A.243-A - Passed Assembly 2000: A.1190 Ways & Means 1999: A.1190 - Codes 1998: A.1787 - Election 1997: A.1787 - Ways and Means 1996: A.634-B - Ref. to Ways & Means 1995: A.634-A - Ways & Means 1994: A.4972-A - Passed Assembly 1993: A.4972 - Ways & Means 1992: A.6525-A - Ways & Means 1991: A.6525 - Ways & Means 1990: A.5409-A - Ways & Means 1987 - A.2719-A - Ways & Means 1989: A.5409-A - Ways & Means 1986 - A.10968-A - Passed Assem. 1988: A.2719-C - Ways & Means 1985 - A.3824-A - Ways & Means   FISCAL IMPLICATIONS FOR STATE AND LOCAL GOVERNMENTS: It is estimated that the ballot pamphlet would cost between $.18 and $.33 per voter, depending upon the type of pamphlet produced and the number of regis- tered voters. These pamphlets would be distributed to at least one registered voter in each household.   EFFECTIVE DATE: This law shall take effect on April 1, 2011 and shall expire May 1, 2017.
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STATE OF NEW YORK ________________________________________________________________________ 234 2011-2012 Regular Sessions IN ASSEMBLY (Prefiled) January 5, 2011 ___________ Introduced by M. of A. CAHILL, DINOWITZ, BROOK-KRASNY -- Multi-Sponsored by -- M. of A. BRENNAN, COLTON, GALEF, JACOBS, P. LOPEZ, McENENY, REILLY, WEISENBERG -- read once and referred to the Committee on Election Law AN ACT to amend the election law, in relation to the preparation, contents and distribution of a paper pamphlet containing information relative to general elections, to repeal certain provisions of the election law, relating to distribution of copies of proposed amend- ments to the constitution or other propositions or questions; and providing for the repeal of such provisions upon expiration thereof The People of the State of New York, represented in Senate and Assem- bly, do enact as follows: 1 Section 1. Subdivisions 2 and 3 of section 4-116 of the election law 2 are REPEALED. 3 § 2. Paragraphs c and d of subdivision 1 of section 4-108 of the 4 election law are REPEALED and subdivision 3, as added by chapter 234 of 5 the laws of 1976, is amended to read as follows: 6 3. The attorney general shall advise in the preparation of such 7 [ abstract and such] form of submission. 8 § 3. The opening paragraph of subdivision 1 of section 4-120 of the 9 election law, as amended by chapter 359 of the laws of 1989, is amended 10 to read as follows: 11 The board of elections shall publish once in each of the two weeks 12 preceding a general election, or a special or village election conducted 13 by the board of elections, a notice specifying the day of the election, 14 and the public officers to be voted for within such county, or any part 15 thereof at such election. [ If constitutional amendments, or questions16 are to be submitted to the voters of the state, the notice shall state17 that fact and that a copy of each such amendment or question may be18 obtained at the board of elections, by any voter.] Such publication 19 shall be in two newspapers published within the county. If the county 20 contains a city or cities, at least one of such newspapers shall be 21 published in the city, or the largest city, if there be more than one. EXPLANATION--Matter in italics (underscored) is new; matter in brackets [ ] is old law to be omitted. LBD01027-01-1A. 234 2 1 § 4. Subdivision 1 of section 4-128 of the election law, as amended by 2 chapter 489 of the laws of 2009, is amended to read as follows: 3 1. The board of elections of each county shall provide the requisite 4 number of official and facsimile ballots, two cards of instruction to 5 voters in the form prescribed by the state board of elections, five 6 copies of each ballot pamphlet, at least one copy of the instruction 7 booklet for inspectors, a sufficient number of maps, street finders or 8 other descriptions of all of the polling places and election districts 9 within the county in which the polling place is located to enable the 10 election inspectors and poll clerks to determine the correct election 11 district and polling place for each street address within the county in 12 which the polling place is located, distance markers, tally sheets and 13 return blanks, pens, black ink, or ball point pens with black ink, 14 pencils having black lead, envelopes for the ballots of voters whose 15 registration poll records are not in the ledger or whose names are not 16 on the computer generated registration list, envelopes for returns, 17 identification buttons, badges or emblems for the inspectors and clerks 18 in the form prescribed by the state board of elections and such other 19 articles of stationery as may be necessary for the proper conduct of 20 elections, except that when a town, city or village holds an election 21 not conducted by the board of elections, the clerk of such town, city or 22 village, shall provide such official and facsimile ballots and the 23 necessary blanks, supplies and stationery for such election. 24 § 5. Subdivision 4 of section 5-204 of the election law is REPEALED 25 and subdivisions 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10 are renumbered subdivisions 2, 26 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8. 27 § 6. Subdivision 2 of section 4-117 of the election law is REPEALED 28 and subdivision 3 is renumbered subdivision 2. 29 § 7. Article 7 of the election law is amended by adding a new title 3 30 to read as follows: 31 TITLE III 32 BALLOT PAMPHLET 33 Section 7-300. Legislative findings. 34 7-302. State board of elections to prepare ballot pamphlet. 35 7-304. Contents of ballot pamphlet. 36 7-306. Preparation of ballot proposal materials. 37 7-308. State immunity. 38 7-310. Printing. 39 7-312. Distribution. 40 7-314. Authorization to local communities. 41 § 7-300. Legislative findings. The legislature hereby finds and 42 declares that the purpose of this title and of the ballot pamphlet is to 43 fully and fairly inform the electorate about the issues appearing on the 44 ballot. The state board of elections shall undertake its responsibil- 45 ities in the manner best calculated to, and all the provisions herein 46 shall be construed so as to accomplish that goal. 47 § 7-302. State board of elections to prepare ballot pamphlet. It shall 48 be the duty of the state board of elections, hereinafter referred to as 49 the state board, to prepare and distribute a ballot pamphlet, in the 50 manner set out in this title, for every general election conducted in 51 the state in which a ballot proposal is on the ballot. Not later than 52 January thirty-first of each year, the state board shall fix and 53 announce the dates for all deadlines provided for by this title. 54 § 7-304. Contents of ballot pamphlet. Each ballot pamphlet shall 55 contain the following material and no other material. 1. An introductory 56 statement shall be prepared by the state board explaining:A. 234 3 1 (a) The date and hours during which the polls will be open for the 2 general election; 3 (b) Voter qualification requirements in New York state; 4 (c) When, where, and how to register to vote; 5 (d) When, where and how absentee ballots are obtained and used; 6 (e) Instructions on how to vote, including the use of affidavit 7 ballots; and 8 (f) Any other general information on voting deemed necessary or useful 9 to the electorate or otherwise consistent with the goals of this article 10 by the state board. 11 2. The following statement, printed in boldface type, shall follow the 12 introductory statement and precede materials related to ballot 13 proposals: 14 IMPORTANT: This pamphlet contains information only on proposals which 15 will be on the ballot statewide. There may also be proposals of local 16 interest on the ballot in your community. For information on these 17 proposals, contact your local board of elections and see your local 18 newspaper. The arguments for and against the proposals do not consti- 19 tute endorsement by the State of New York, nor does the State certify 20 the accuracy or truth of any statement made in those materials. 21 3. Materials shall be prepared for each ballot proposal to be submit- 22 ted to a statewide vote at the general election. Such materials shall be 23 prepared as prescribed in section 7-306 of this title, and shall include 24 the following: 25 (a) A true copy of the form of the ballot proposal, as it will appear 26 on the ballot, set out in boldface or italic type at the top of the 27 page; 28 (b) A concise, impartial, and understandable explanation, not to 29 exceed five hundred words, stating the nature and effect of the ballot 30 proposal; 31 (c) A statement not to exceed three hundred words, of the major argu- 32 ments for its passage, clearly labelled as such; 33 (d) A statement not to exceed three hundred words, of the major argu- 34 ments against its passage, clearly labelled as such; 35 (e) The full text of the ballot proposal, which shall be printed so as 36 to indicate by the use of italic type the matter if any that would be 37 added to the state constitution of law, and by the use of brackets the 38 matter if any that would be deleted therefrom; 39 (f) An explanation of such use of italic type and brackets, as 40 described in paragraph (e) of this subdivision; and 41 (g) The members of the committee that prepared the materials. 42 § 7-306. Preparation of ballot proposal materials. 1. All materials 43 required by paragraphs (a), (e), (f) and (g) of subdivision three of 44 section 7-304 of this title shall be prepared by the state board of 45 elections, and all materials required by paragraphs (b), (c) and (d) of 46 subdivision three of section 7-304 of this title with respect to each 47 ballot proposal, shall be prepared by a separate committee consisting of 48 seven members. The majority leader of the senate shall appoint two 49 members to serve on such committee. The speaker of the assembly shall 50 appoint two members to such committee. The minority leader of the senate 51 and the minority leader of the assembly shall jointly appoint two addi- 52 tional persons to such committee. In making their appointments, the 53 majority and the minority leaders of the senate and the speaker of the 54 assembly and the minority leader of the assembly shall endeavor to 55 create a committee with a broad range of opinions on the measure. The 56 seventh member shall be the attorney general and shall serve as theA. 234 4 1 chairperson of the committee. Vacancies shall be filled in the same 2 manner as the original appointment. Members who are not state officials 3 shall be entitled to actual and necessary expenses incurred in the 4 performance of their duties. 5 2. The state board of elections shall make staff available to assist 6 the committee in carrying out its responsibilities. 7 3. The committee must meet within ten days after each proposition has 8 passed both houses of the legislature to determine who shall be the 9 principal proponents and opponents of each measure. Such principal 10 proponent or opponent may be a member of the committee or any registered 11 voter in the state. 12 4. The committee shall announce with such notice as the state board 13 shall specify, its preliminary draft of the explanatory statement and 14 the arguments opposing and proposing the ballot proposals as provided 15 for in paragraphs (b), (c) and (d) of subdivision three of section 7-304 16 of this title, not later than the date fixed by the state board pursuant 17 to the provisions of section 7-302 of this title. Any person may file 18 with the committee a written statement of suggested changes and all such 19 statements submitted not later than the date fixed by the state board 20 shall be considered by such committee. 21 5. In compliance with paragraphs (c) and (d) of subdivision three of 22 section 7-304 of this title, the committee may select no more than two 23 arguments advanced by proponents and opponents of every measure to be 24 submitted to the voters. If no argument is deemed appropriate for 25 selection, the committee may reserve the responsibility for composition 26 of either or both. In making its selections, the committee shall give 27 priority to arguments advanced by organizations over consideration of 28 arguments advanced by individuals. The state board shall include in the 29 ballot pamphlet on the same page as the printed argument relating to the 30 measure, the name of the organization, if any, advancing the argument 31 and whether the argument supports or opposes the measure. If the commit- 32 tee itself has written the argument, a disclaimer in substantially the 33 same form shall be printed immediately below the argument: 34 The printing of this argument does not constitute an endorsement by 35 the state of New York, nor does the state warrant the accuracy or truth 36 of any statement made in the argument. 37 6. The committee may reject a statement or portions thereof, if it: 38 (a) contains any language that the committee, at its discretion, has 39 construed not to accomplish the goals of this title; 40 (b) contains any language which may not be legally circulated through 41 the mails; or 42 (c) is submitted after the date specified by the board. 43 7. Thereafter, the committee shall make any changes in the materials 44 as it considers proper and shall file the final set of materials with 45 the state board not later than the date set by such board pursuant to 46 the provisions of section 7-302 of this title. 47 8. The preliminary materials and the final set of materials shall be 48 concurred on and certified by the committee or at least by four of its 49 members. If a member does not concur, a statement shall show only that 50 he dissents and where applicable, that he was appointed as a proponent 51 or opponent of the measure. 52 9. The state board shall certify and make public the final contents of 53 the ballot pamphlet no later than sixty days before the election at 54 which the measure is to appear on the ballot. 55 § 7-308. State immunity. No cause of action shall arise against the 56 state of New York or any agency or employee thereof with respect to suchA. 234 5 1 ballot pamphlet except as caused by the negligence or willful acts of 2 the state or of its agents or employees, nor may a cause of action arise 3 against the state of New York or any agency or employee thereof by 4 virtue of statements prepared by any committee constituted under section 5 7-306 of this title. 6 § 7-310. Printing. 1. The state board shall cause the ballot pamphlet 7 to be printed in as legible a manner as possible consistent with the 8 purpose of this title. In the event that the state board determines that 9 the printing of the ballot pamphlet would be more efficient and econom- 10 ical if done by the local boards of elections, the state board is hereby 11 authorized to instruct all boards of elections to print the ballot 12 pamphlet. Should the state board so instruct the boards of elections, it 13 shall promptly reimburse each board for the actual cost of production 14 incurred by said board. 15 2. The state board or the local boards of elections as provided for in 16 subdivision one of this section, shall also prepare and cause to be 17 printed, and distribute to such voters as it deems appropriate, a trans- 18 lation of the ballot pamphlet into Spanish and any other languages 19 required to comply with the Voting Rights Act of 1965, as amended. 20 § 7-312. Distribution. 1. There shall be no charge for single copies 21 of the ballot pamphlet. 22 2. In every general election in which a ballot proposal is on the 23 statewide ballot, the state board shall cause a copy of the ballot 24 pamphlet to be distributed to at least one registered voter in each 25 household. In the event the state board determines that distribution of 26 the ballot pamphlet would be more efficient and economical if done by 27 the local boards of elections, the state board is hereby authorized to 28 instruct all boards of elections to distribute the ballot pamphlet to at 29 least one registered voter in each household. Should the state board so 30 instruct the boards of elections, it shall provide a sufficient number 31 of ballot pamphlets to each board of elections and shall promptly reim- 32 burse each board for the actual cost of postage incurred by said board 33 in distributing the pamphlet provided that said board utilize the lowest 34 feasible postage rate charged by the United States postal service. The 35 distribution of the ballot pamphlets to registered voters or households 36 shall be made between twenty and forty days before the election to which 37 they pertain. 38 3. Sufficient copies shall also be provided to boards of elections to 39 permit each such board to supply five copies to each election district. 40 4. In addition to providing a sufficient number of copies of the 41 pamphlet to comply with subdivisions two and three of this section, the 42 state board shall cause to be printed at least fifty thousand additional 43 copies and provide them to those persons, organizations and other enti- 44 ties that request them, at no charge, provided that the state board may 45 impose a charge for bulk orders of greater than five copies and may set 46 limits on the total number of copies that any single individual, organ- 47 ization or other entity may obtain upon request. 48 § 7-314. Authorization to local communities. The legislative bodies of 49 all cities, towns and counties are hereby authorized to enact legis- 50 lation consistent with the provisions of this title which would enable 51 questions, propositions, and issues on the ballot in such cities, towns 52 and counties to be presented to voters by means of a ballot pamphlet. 53 Any such pamphlet may, with the approval of the state board, be mailed 54 together with the statewide ballot pamphlet. The additional expense of 55 preparing, printing and distributing such a pamphlet shall be paid by 56 such city, town or county.A. 234 6 1 § 8. Subdivision 2 of section 16-100 of the election law is amended to 2 read as follows: 3 2. The county court is vested with jurisdiction to summarily deter- 4 mine any question of law or fact except proceedings as to a nomination 5 or election at a primary election or a nomination at a judicial conven- 6 tion, proceedings as to the casting and canvass of ballots [ and], 7 proceedings for examination or preservation of ballots and proceedings 8 as to the contents of statements on constitutional amendments, questions 9 and propositions. 10 § 9. The election law is amended by adding a new section 16-105 to 11 read as follows: 12 § 16-105. Proceedings as to the content of ballot pamphlets. 1. Any 13 person eligible to vote on any ballot proposal contained in any ballot 14 pamphlet prepared pursuant to title three of article seven of this chap- 15 ter may institute a proceeding as to the factual accuracy of statements 16 on constitutional amendments, questions and propositions. Any such 17 proceeding shall be brought in the supreme court of the state of New 18 York, Albany county. 19 2. A proceeding pursuant to subdivision one of this section must be 20 instituted no later than ten days after the state board certifies the 21 final contents of the ballot pamphlet. If the court finds that the form 22 and contents do not comply with the requirements of article seven of 23 this chapter, or finds by clear and convincing evidence that the 24 language of the pamphlet is false or misleading, it shall order such 25 changes as it deems necessary, provided that any changes so ordered will 26 not substantially interfere with the printing and distribution of the 27 pamphlet as required by law. 28 3. A final order in any proceeding under this section shall be made, 29 if possible, at least fifty days before the general election for which 30 the pamphlet was prepared. 31 § 10. On or before March 1, two thousand seventeen the board of 32 elections shall submit a report to the governor and the legislature 33 evaluating the effectiveness of ballot pamphlets as a tool to increase 34 voter awareness, registration and participation. Such report shall 35 include statistics on voter participation both before and after ballot 36 pamphlets were distributed and findings and recommendations on continu- 37 ing and improving title III of article 7 of the election law. 38 § 11. This act shall take effect April 1, 2013 and shall expire May 1, 39 2017, when upon such date the provisions of this act shall be deemed 40 repealed. REPEAL NOTE.--Subdivisions 2 and 3 of section 4-116 of the election law, proposed to be repealed by this act, provides for publication of proposed constitutional amendments. Paragraphs c and d of subdivision 1 of section 4-108 of the election law, proposed to be repealed by this act, provide for a transmittal to county boards of an abstract of proposed constitutional amendments and for the form of the proposed constitutional amendment. Subdivision 4 of section 5-204 of the election law, proposed to be repealed by this act, provides for distribution of copies of proposed constitutional amendments and questions at local registration. Subdivision 2 of section 4-117 of the election law, proposed to be repealed by this act, provides for mailing copies of proposed constitu- tional amendments and questions to registered voters.