S07528 Summary:

BILL NOS07528
 
SAME ASNo Same As
 
SPONSORMYRIE
 
COSPNSRBAILEY, BENJAMIN, BIAGGI, CARLUCCI, GIANARIS, HOYLMAN, JACKSON, KAVANAGH, KRUEGER, MAY, MAYER, RIVERA, SALAZAR, SEPULVEDA, STAVISKY
 
MLTSPNSR
 
Desig Art 17 17-100 - 17-170 to be Title 1, add Art 17 Title 1 Title Head, Title 2 17-200 - 17-220, amd Art 17 Art Head, El L
 
Enacts into law major components of legislation which are necessary, but not sufficient, to ensure all eligible voters in the State of New York have the opportunity to exercise their rights under the Constitution of the State of New York related to the elective franchise, including Article I, Section 1 and Article II, Section 1; freedom of expression and association, including Article 1 Sections 8 and 9; equal protection of the laws, including Article I, Section 11; and an equal opportunity to participate in free and fair elections, including Article III, Sections 4 and 5.
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S07528 Actions:

BILL NOS07528
 
01/23/2020REFERRED TO ELECTIONS
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S07528 Committee Votes:

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S07528 Floor Votes:

There are no votes for this bill in this legislative session.
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S07528 Text:



 
                STATE OF NEW YORK
        ________________________________________________________________________
 
                                          7528
 
                    IN SENATE
 
                                    January 23, 2020
                                       ___________
 
        Introduced  by  Sen.  MYRIE  -- read twice and ordered printed, and when
          printed to be committed to the Committee on Elections
 
        AN ACT to amend the election law, in relation to  establishing  the  New
          York  Voting  Rights Act, establishing rights of action for denying or
          abridging of the right of any member of a  protected  class  to  vote,
          establishing  and  maintaining  a  statewide  database  of  voting and
          election  data,  providing  assistance  to  language-minority  groups,
          requiring  certain  political subdivisions to receive preclearance for
          potential violations of the NYVRA, and creating  civil  liability  for
          voter intimidation
 
          The  People of the State of New York, represented in Senate and Assem-
        bly, do enact as follows:
 
     1    Section 1. This act shall be known and may be cited as the  "New  York
     2  Voting Rights Act".
     3    §  2. Sections 17-100 through 17-170 of article 17 of the election law
     4  are designated title 1 and a new title  heading  is  added  to  read  as
     5  follows:
 
     6                    VIOLATIONS OF THE ELECTIVE FRANCHISE
 
     7    §  3. The article heading of article 17 of the election law is amended
     8  to read as follows:

     9              [VIOLATIONS OF] PROTECTING THE ELECTIVE FRANCHISE
 
    10    § 4. Article 17 of the election law is amended by adding a new title 2
    11  to read as follows:
    12                                   TITLE 2
    13                         NEW YORK VOTING RIGHTS ACT
    14  Section 17-200. Legislative purpose and statement of public policy.
    15          17-202. Interpretation of laws related to elective franchise.
    16          17-204. Definitions.
    17          17-206. Rights of action.
    18          17-208. Maintenance of voting and election data.
 
         EXPLANATION--Matter in italics (underscored) is new; matter in brackets
                              [ ] is old law to be omitted.
                                                                   LBD14845-03-0

        S. 7528                             2
 
     1          17-210. Assistance for language-minority groups.
     2          17-212. Preclearance.
     3          17-214. Civil liability for voter intimidation.
     4          17-216. Attorney's fees.
     5          17-218. Applicability.
     6          17-220. Severability.
     7    § 17-200. Legislative  purpose  and  statement  of public policy.   In
     8  recognition of the protections for the right to  vote  provided  by  the
     9  constitution  of  the  state of New York, which substantially exceed the
    10  protections for the right to vote provided by the  constitution  of  the
    11  United  States, and in conjunction with the constitutional guarantees of
    12  equal protection, freedom of  expression,  and  freedom  of  association
    13  under the law and against the denial or abridgement of the voting rights
    14  of  members  of a race, ethnicity, or language-minority group, it is the
    15  public policy of the state of New York to:
    16    1. Encourage participation in the elective franchise by  all  eligible
    17  voters to the maximum extent; and
    18    2.  Ensure that eligible voters who are members of racial, ethnic, and
    19  language-minority groups shall have an equal opportunity to  participate
    20  in  the  political processes of the state of New York, and especially to
    21  exercise the elective franchise.
    22    § 17-202. Interpretation of laws related to elective  franchise.    In
    23  further recognition of the protections for the right to vote provided by
    24  the constitution of the state of New York, statutes related to the elec-
    25  tive  franchise  shall be construed liberally in favor of protecting the
    26  right to cast an effective ballot.
    27    § 17-204. Definitions. For the purposes of this title:
    28    1. "At-large" method of election means a method of electing members to
    29  the governing body of a political subdivision: (a) in which all  of  the
    30  voters  of the entire political subdivision elect each of the members to
    31  the governing body; (b) in which the candidates are required  to  reside
    32  within given areas of the political subdivision and all of the voters of
    33  the  entire  political  subdivision  elect  each  of  the members to the
    34  governing body; or (c) that combines at-large elections  with  district-
    35  based elections, unless the only member of the governing body of a poli-
    36  tical subdivision elected at-large holds exclusively executive responsi-
    37  bilities.  At-large  method  of  election does not include ranked-choice
    38  voting, cumulative voting, and limited voting.
    39    2. "District-based" method of election  means  a  method  of  electing
    40  members to the governing body of a political subdivision using an appor-
    41  tionment  plan in which each member of the governing body resides within
    42  a district or ward that is a divisible part of the political subdivision
    43  and is elected only by voters residing within  that  district  or  ward,
    44  except  for a member of the governing body that holds exclusively execu-
    45  tive responsibilities.
    46    3. "Alternative" method of election means a method of electing members
    47  to the governing body of a political subdivision using  a  method  other
    48  than  at-large or district-based, including, but not limited to, ranked-
    49  choice voting, cumulative voting, and limited voting.
    50    4. "Political subdivision" means a geographic area  of  representation
    51  created  for  the  provision  of government services, including, but not
    52  limited to, a county, city, town, village, school district, or any other
    53  district organized pursuant to state or local law.
    54    5. "Protected class" means a class of eligible voters who are  members
    55  of  a  race,  ethnicity,  or  language-minority group, as referenced and
    56  defined in the federal voting rights act.

        S. 7528                             3
 
     1    6. "Racially polarized voting"  means  voting  in  which  there  is  a
     2  difference  in the candidate or electoral choice preferred by members in
     3  a protected class, and the candidate or electoral  choice  preferred  by
     4  the  rest  of  the  electorate.  The  methodologies for estimating group
     5  voting  behavior  as approved in applicable federal cases to enforce the
     6  federal voting rights act to establish racially polarized voting may  be
     7  used  for purposes of this subdivision to prove that elections are char-
     8  acterized by racially polarized voting, but  those  methodologies  shall
     9  not be the exclusive means of proving racially polarized voting.
    10    7.  "Federal voting rights act" means the federal Voting Rights Act of
    11  1965, 52 U.S.C. § 10301 et seq.
    12    8. The "civil rights bureau" means the  civil  rights  bureau  of  the
    13  office of the attorney general.
    14    § 17-206. Rights   of   action.  1.  Right  of  action  against  voter
    15  suppression. (a) No voting qualification, prerequisite to  voting,  law,
    16  ordinance, standard, practice, procedure, regulation, or policy shall be
    17  enacted  or  implemented by any board of elections or political subdivi-
    18  sion in a manner that results in a denial or abridgement of the right of
    19  any member of a protected class to vote.
    20    (b) A violation is established  if,  based  on  the  totality  of  the
    21  circumstances,  members  of a protected class have less opportunity than
    22  other members of the electorate to participate in the political  process
    23  or  elect  candidates  or  electoral choices preferred by members of the
    24  protected class.
    25    (c) Circumstances that may be considered include, but are not  limited
    26  to,  the  extent to which members of a protected class have been elected
    27  to office in the state or political subdivision and the extent to  which
    28  members  of a protected class in the state or political subdivision vote
    29  at lower rates than other members of the electorate.
    30    (d) For political subdivisions where either  the  primary  or  general
    31  election  is  held  on a date that is not concurrent with the primary or
    32  general election dates for state, county, or city office as  established
    33  in  section  eight of article three or section eight of article thirteen
    34  of the constitution, and in state law, there shall be a presumption that
    35  the date of election results in the denial or abridgement of  the  right
    36  to  vote where for three consecutive general elections in which there is
    37  at least one contested race for an office, the number of  actual  voters
    38  in each contested election is less than twenty-five percent of the total
    39  number  of votes cast in the most recent general election for the presi-
    40  dency of the United States by voters in the political subdivision, or in
    41  which, for any protected class consisting of at least twenty-five  thou-
    42  sand  citizens  of  voting  age  or  whose members comprise at least ten
    43  percent of the citizen voting age population, the percent of members  of
    44  that  protected  class  that  are  actual voters is at least twenty-five
    45  percent lower than the percent of citizens of voting age  that  are  not
    46  members of that protected class that are actual voters.
    47    2.  Right  of  action against vote dilution. (a) A method of election,
    48  including at-large, district-based, or alternative, shall not  have  the
    49  effect of impairing the ability of members of a protected class to elect
    50  candidates  of  their choice or influence the outcome of elections, as a
    51  result of the dilution or the abridgment of the rights of members of the
    52  protected class.
    53    (b) A violation of this subdivision shall be:
    54    (i) established if a political subdivision uses an at-large method  of
    55  election  and it is shown that either: (A) voting patterns of members of
    56  the protected class within the political subdivision are racially polar-

        S. 7528                             4
 
     1  ized; or (B) under the totality of the  circumstances,  the  ability  of
     2  members  of  the  protected class to elect candidates of their choice or
     3  influence the outcome of elections is impaired.
     4    (ii)  established  if a political subdivision uses a district-based or
     5  alternative method of election and it is shown that candidates or  elec-
     6  toral  choices preferred by members of the protected class would usually
     7  be defeated, and either: (A) voting patterns of members of the protected
     8  class within the political subdivision are racially  polarized;  or  (B)
     9  under  the  totality of the circumstances, the ability of members of the
    10  protected class to elect candidates of their  choice  or  influence  the
    11  outcome of elections is impaired.
    12    (iii)  presumptively  established  if  it  is shown that the political
    13  subdivision used race, ethnicity, or language-minority group, or another
    14  characteristic that serves as a proxy for race, ethnicity, or  language-
    15  minority  group,  for the purpose of apportionment. A political subdivi-
    16  sion shall only rebut this presumption by showing that race,  ethnicity,
    17  or  language-minority  group, or another characteristic that serves as a
    18  proxy for race, ethnicity, or language-minority group, was used  to  the
    19  extent  necessary  to  comply with this title, the federal voting rights
    20  act, the constitution, or the constitution of the United States.
    21    (c) In assessing whether voting patterns of members of  the  protected
    22  class within the political subdivision are racially polarized or whether
    23  candidates  or  electoral  choices preferred by members of the protected
    24  class would usually be defeated:  (i) elections conducted prior  to  the
    25  filing of an action pursuant to this subdivision are more probative than
    26  elections  conducted  after  the  filing  of  the  action; (ii) evidence
    27  concerning elections for members of the governing body of the  political
    28  subdivision are more probative than evidence concerning other elections;
    29  (iii)  statistical  evidence  is  more  probative  than  non-statistical
    30  evidence; (iv) where there is evidence  that  more  than  one  protected
    31  class  of  eligible  voters  are  politically  cohesive in the political
    32  subdivision, members of each of those protected classes may be combined;
    33  (v) evidence concerning the intent on the part of  the  voters,  elected
    34  officials,  or  the  political  subdivision  to  discriminate  against a
    35  protected class is not required; (vi) evidence that voting patterns  and
    36  election  outcomes  could  be  explained  by factors other than racially
    37  polarized voting, including but not limited to partisanship,  shall  not
    38  be  considered;  (vii) evidence that sub-groups within a protected class
    39  have different voting patterns shall not be considered; (viii)  evidence
    40  concerning  whether  members  of  a  protected  class are geographically
    41  compact or concentrated shall not be considered, but may be a factor  in
    42  determining an appropriate remedy; and (ix) evidence concerning project-
    43  ed  changes  in  population or demographics shall not be considered, but
    44  may be a factor, in determining an appropriate remedy.
    45    (d) In assessing whether, under the totality of the circumstances, the
    46  ability of members of the protected class to elect candidates  of  their
    47  choice  or  influence the outcome of elections is impaired, factors that
    48  may be considered shall include, but not be limited to: (i) the  history
    49  of  discrimination  in  the political subdivision, geographic region, or
    50  the state; (ii) the extent to which members of the protected class  have
    51  been  elected  to  office in the political subdivision; (iii) the use of
    52  any voting qualification, prerequisite to voting, law, ordinance, stand-
    53  ard, practice, procedure, regulation, or policy  that  may  enhance  the
    54  dilutive effects of the election scheme; (iv) denial of access of either
    55  eligible  voters or candidates who are members of the protected class to
    56  those processes determining which  groups  of  candidates  will  receive

        S. 7528                             5
 
     1  access  to  the  ballot,  financial support, or other support in a given
     2  election; (v) the  extent  to  which  members  of  the  protected  class
     3  contribute  to  political  campaigns  at lower rates; (vi) the extent to
     4  which members of a protected class in the state or political subdivision
     5  vote  at  lower  rates  than  other members of the electorate; (vii) the
     6  extent to which members of the  protected  class  are  disadvantaged  in
     7  areas including but not limited to education, employment, health, crimi-
     8  nal  justice, housing, land use, or environmental protection; (viii) the
     9  extent to which members of the  protected  class  are  disadvantaged  in
    10  other areas which may hinder their ability to participate effectively in
    11  the political process; (ix) the use of overt or subtle racial appeals in
    12  political  campaigns;  (x)  a  significant lack of responsiveness on the
    13  part of elected officials to the particularized needs of members of  the
    14  protected  class;  and  (xi)  whether  the  political  subdivision has a
    15  compelling policy justification for adopting or maintaining  the  method
    16  of  election.  No  factor  is  dispositive or necessary to establish the
    17  existence of  racially  polarized  voting.  Evidence  of  these  factors
    18  concerning the state, private actors, or other political subdivisions in
    19  the  geographic  region  may  be  considered  but is less probative than
    20  evidence concerning the political subdivision itself.
    21    3. Standing.  Any  aggrieved  person,  organization  whose  membership
    22  includes  or  is likely to include aggrieved persons, organization whose
    23  mission would be frustrated by a violation of this section, organization
    24  that would expend resources in order to fulfill its mission as a  result
    25  of  a  violation  of  this  section, or the attorney general may file an
    26  action pursuant to this section in the supreme court of  the  county  in
    27  which the political subdivision is located.
    28    4.  Remedies.  (a)  Upon  a finding of a violation of any provision of
    29  this section, the court shall implement appropriate  remedies  that  are
    30  tailored to remedy the violation. Remedies may include, but shall not be
    31  limited to:
    32    (i) a district-based method of election;
    33    (ii) an alternative method of election;
    34    (iii) new or revised apportionment plans;
    35    (iv)  elimination  of  staggered  elections so that all members of the
    36  governing body are elected on the same date;
    37    (v) increasing the size of the governing body;
    38    (vi) moving the dates of elections to be concurrent with  the  primary
    39  or  general  election  dates for state, county, or city office as estab-
    40  lished in section eight of article three or  section  eight  of  article
    41  thirteen of the constitution;
    42    (vii) additional voting hours or days;
    43    (viii) additional polling locations;
    44    (ix) additional means of voting such as voting by mail;
    45    (x) ordering of special elections;
    46    (xi) requiring expanded opportunities for voter registration;
    47    (xii) requiring additional voter education;
    48    (xiii) modifying the election calendar; or
    49    (xiv) the restoration or addition of persons to registration lists.
    50    (b)  The  court  shall  only adopt a remedy that will not diminish the
    51  ability of minority groups to participate in the political  process  and
    52  to elect their preferred candidates to office.  The court shall consider
    53  proposed  remedies  by any parties and interested non-parties, and shall
    54  not provide deference or priority to a proposed  remedy  because  it  is
    55  proposed  by  the  political  subdivision.  This  title  gives the court

        S. 7528                             6
 
     1  authority to implement remedies notwithstanding any other  provision  of
     2  state or local law.
     3    5. Procedures for implementing new or revised apportionment plans. The
     4  governing  body of a political subdivision with the authority under this
     5  title and all applicable state and local laws to enact and  implement  a
     6  new  method  of  election  that will replace the political subdivision's
     7  at-large method of election with a district-based or alternative  method
     8  of  election,  or  enact  and  implement a new apportionment plan, shall
     9  undertake each of the steps enumerated in this subdivision, if  proposed
    10  subsequent  to  receipt  of  a  NYVRA notification letter, as defined in
    11  subdivision six of this section, or the filing of a  claim  pursuant  to
    12  this title or the federal voting rights act.
    13    (a) Before drawing a draft apportionment plan or plans of the proposed
    14  boundaries  of  the  districts,  the political subdivision shall hold at
    15  least two public hearings over a period of no more than thirty days,  at
    16  which  the  public is invited to provide input regarding the composition
    17  of the districts. Before these hearings, the political  subdivision  may
    18  conduct outreach to the public, including to non-English-speaking commu-
    19  nities,  to  explain  the  apportionment process and to encourage public
    20  participation.
    21    (b) After all draft  apportionment  plans  are  drawn,  the  political
    22  subdivision  shall  publish  and make available for release at least one
    23  draft apportionment plan and, if members of the governing  body  of  the
    24  political  subdivision  will  be elected in their districts at different
    25  times to provide for staggered terms of office, the  potential  sequence
    26  of the elections. The political subdivision shall also hold at least two
    27  additional  hearings  over  a period of no more than forty-five days, at
    28  which the public is invited to provide input regarding  the  content  of
    29  the  draft  apportionment  plan  or  plans  and the proposed sequence of
    30  elections, if applicable.  The draft apportionment plan or  plans  shall
    31  be  published  at least seven days before consideration at a hearing. If
    32  the draft apportionment plan or plans are  revised  at  or  following  a
    33  hearing,  the  revised versions shall be published and made available to
    34  the public for at least seven days before being adopted.
    35    (c) In determining  the  final  sequence  of  the  district  elections
    36  conducted  in  a political subdivision in which members of the governing
    37  body will be elected at different times to provide for  staggered  terms
    38  of  office,  the  governing body shall give special consideration to the
    39  purposes of this title, and it shall take into account  the  preferences
    40  expressed by members of the districts.
    41    6.  Notification  requirement  and  safe  harbor for judicial actions.
    42  Before commencing a judicial  action  against  a  political  subdivision
    43  under this section, a prospective plaintiff shall send by certified mail
    44  a  written  notice to the clerk of the political subdivision, or, if the
    45  political subdivision does not have a clerk, the governing body  of  the
    46  political  subdivision,  against  which  the  action  would  be brought,
    47  asserting that the political subdivision may be  in  violation  of  this
    48  title. This written notice shall be referred to as a "NYVRA notification
    49  letter"  in  this  title.  For  actions against a school district or any
    50  other political subdivision that holds elections governed by the  educa-
    51  tion  law, the prospective plaintiff shall also send by certified mail a
    52  copy of the NYVRA notification letter to the commissioner of education.
    53    (a) A prospective plaintiff  shall  not  commence  a  judicial  action
    54  against  a political subdivision under this section within fifty days of
    55  sending to the political subdivision a NYVRA notification letter.

        S. 7528                             7
 
     1    (b) Before receiving a NYVRA notification letter, or within fifty days
     2  of mailing of a NYVRA notification letter, the governing body of a poli-
     3  tical subdivision may pass a resolution  affirming:  (i)  the  political
     4  subdivision's  intention to enact and implement a remedy for a potential
     5  violation of this title; (ii) specific steps it will undertake to facil-
     6  itate approval and implementation of such a remedy; and (iii) a schedule
     7  for  enacting and implementing such a remedy. Such a resolution shall be
     8  referred to as a "NYVRA resolution" in this title. If a political subdi-
     9  vision passes a NYVRA resolution,  a  prospective  plaintiff  shall  not
    10  commence  an action to enforce this section against the political subdi-
    11  vision within ninety days  of  the  resolution's  passage.  For  actions
    12  against  a  school district, the commissioner of education may order the
    13  enactment of an NYVRA resolution pursuant to the commissioner's authori-
    14  ty under section three hundred five of the education law.
    15    (c) If the governing body of a political subdivision lacks the author-
    16  ity under this title or applicable state law or local laws to  enact  or
    17  implement  a  remedy identified in a NYVRA resolution within ninety days
    18  after the passage of the NYVRA resolution, or if the political  subdivi-
    19  sion  is a covered entity as defined under section 17-212 of this title,
    20  the governing body of the political subdivision may undertake the  steps
    21  enumerated  in  the  following provisions upon passage of a NYVRA resol-
    22  ution:
    23    (i) The governing body of the  political  subdivision  may  approve  a
    24  proposed remedy that complies with this title and submit such a proposed
    25  remedy  to the civil rights bureau.  Such a submission shall be referred
    26  to as a "NYVRA proposal" in this title.
    27    (ii) Prior to passing a  NYVRA  proposal,  the  political  subdivision
    28  shall  hold  at least one public hearing, at which the public is invited
    29  to provide input regarding the NYVRA proposal.  Before this hearing, the
    30  political subdivision may conduct outreach to the public,  including  to
    31  non-English-speaking communities, to encourage public participation.
    32    (iii)  Within  sixty  days  of  receipt of a NYVRA proposal, the civil
    33  rights bureau shall either grant or deny approval of the NYVRA proposal.
    34    (iv) The civil rights bureau shall only grant approval  to  the  NYVRA
    35  proposal  if  it concludes that: (A) the political subdivision may be in
    36  violation of this title; (B) the NYVRA proposal would remedy any  poten-
    37  tial  violation  of  this  title;  (C) the NYVRA proposal is unlikely to
    38  violate the constitution or any federal law; (D) the NYVRA proposal will
    39  not diminish the ability of minority groups to participate in the  poli-
    40  tical process and to elect their preferred candidates to office; and (E)
    41  implementation  of  the  NYVRA  proposal  is  feasible. The civil rights
    42  bureau may grant approval to  the  NYVRA  proposal  notwithstanding  any
    43  other provision of state or local law.
    44    (v)  If  the  civil  rights bureau grants approval, the NYVRA proposal
    45  shall be enacted and implemented immediately, notwithstanding any  other
    46  provision  of  state  or  local  law.  If the political subdivision is a
    47  covered entity as defined under section  17-212  of  this  title,  there
    48  shall  be no need for the political subdivision to also obtain preclear-
    49  ance for the NYVRA proposal pursuant to such section.
    50    (vi) If the civil rights bureau denies approval,  the  NYVRA  proposal
    51  shall not be enacted or implemented. The civil rights bureau may, in its
    52  discretion, interpose objections explaining its basis or indicate anoth-
    53  er NYVRA proposal for which it would grant approval.
    54    (vii)  If the civil rights bureau does not respond, the NYVRA proposal
    55  shall not be enacted or implemented.

        S. 7528                             8
 
     1    (d) A political subdivision that has passed  a  NYVRA  resolution  may
     2  enter  into  an agreement with a prospective plaintiff who sends a NYVRA
     3  notification letter providing that such a  prospective  plaintiff  shall
     4  not  commence  an  action  to enforce this section against the political
     5  subdivision for an additional ninety days. This written agreement may be
     6  referred to as a "NYVRA extension agreement". The NYVRA extension agree-
     7  ment  shall  include a requirement that either the political subdivision
     8  shall enact and implement a remedy that complies with this title or  the
     9  political  subdivision  shall pass a NYVRA proposal and submit it to the
    10  civil rights bureau.
    11    (e) If, pursuant to  a  process  commenced  by  a  NYVRA  notification
    12  letter,  a  political  subdivision  enacts or implements a remedy or the
    13  civil rights bureau grants approval to a NYVRA proposal,  a  prospective
    14  plaintiff who sent the NYVRA notification letter may, within thirty days
    15  of  the  enactment  or  implementation  of the remedy or approval of the
    16  NYVRA proposal, demand reimbursement for the cost of  the  work  product
    17  generated to support the NYVRA notification letter. A prospective plain-
    18  tiff  shall make the demand in writing and shall substantiate the demand
    19  with financial documentation, such as a detailed invoice for  demography
    20  services  or for the analysis of voting patterns in the political subdi-
    21  vision. A political subdivision may request additional documentation  if
    22  the  provided  documentation  is insufficient to corroborate the claimed
    23  costs. A political subdivision shall reimburse a  prospective  plaintiff
    24  for reasonable costs claimed, or in an amount to which the parties mutu-
    25  ally  agree,  within  forty-five  days  of receiving the written demand,
    26  except that if more  than  one  prospective  plaintiff  is  entitled  to
    27  reimbursement, the political subdivision shall reimburse the prospective
    28  plaintiffs  in  the  order in which they sent NYVRA notification letters
    29  and the forty-five day time period described herein shall apply only  to
    30  reimbursement  of  the  first  prospective  plaintiff who sent a written
    31  notice. The cumulative  amount  of  reimbursements  to  all  prospective
    32  plaintiffs,  except  for  actions brought by the attorney general, shall
    33  not exceed forty-three thousand dollars, as  adjusted  annually  to  the
    34  consumer  price  index for all urban consumers, United States city aver-
    35  age, as published by the United States department of labor.
    36    (f) Notwithstanding the provisions of this subdivision, if  the  first
    37  day for designating petitions for a political subdivision's next regular
    38  election to select members of its governing board has begun or is sched-
    39  uled to begin within thirty days, or if a political subdivision is sche-
    40  duled  to  conduct any election within one hundred twenty days, a plain-
    41  tiff alleging that the mode of election or apportionment plan in  effect
    42  for that election will violate this title may commence a judicial action
    43  against  a  political  subdivision under this section, provided that the
    44  relief sought by such a plaintiff includes preliminary relief  for  that
    45  election. Prior to or concurrent with commencing such a judicial action,
    46  any  such plaintiff shall also submit a NYVRA notification letter to the
    47  political  subdivision.  If  a  judicial  action  commenced  under  this
    48  provision  is  withdrawn or dismissed for mootness because the political
    49  subdivision has enacted or implemented a  remedy  or  the  civil  rights
    50  bureau  has  granted  approval of a NYVRA proposal pursuant to a process
    51  commenced by a NYVRA notification letter, any such  plaintiff  may  only
    52  demand reimbursement pursuant to this subdivision.
    53    7.  Expedited judicial proceedings and preliminary relief.  Because of
    54  the frequency of elections, the severe consequences and irreparable harm
    55  of holding elections under unlawful conditions, and the  expenditure  to
    56  defend potentially unlawful conditions that benefit incumbent officials,

        S. 7528                             9
 
     1  actions  brought  pursuant to this section shall be subject to expedited
     2  pretrial and trial proceedings and receive an automatic calendar prefer-
     3  ence. In any action alleging a violation of  this  section  in  which  a
     4  plaintiff  party  seeks  preliminary  relief with respect to an upcoming
     5  election, the court shall grant relief if it determines that: (a) plain-
     6  tiffs are more likely than not to succeed on the merits; and (b)  it  is
     7  possible  to  implement  an  appropriate  remedy  that would resolve the
     8  alleged violation in the upcoming election.
     9    § 17-208. Maintenance of voting and election data. 1.    Establishment
    10  of  a  statewide  database.  There shall be established within the state
    11  university of New York a repository of the data necessary to assist  the
    12  state and all political subdivisions with evaluating whether and to what
    13  extent  existing laws and practices with respect to voting and elections
    14  are consistent with the public policy expressed in  this  title,  imple-
    15  menting  best  practices in voting and elections to achieve the purposes
    16  of this title, and to investigate potential infringements upon the right
    17  to vote. This repository shall be referred to as  the  "statewide  data-
    18  base" in this title.
    19    2.  Director of the statewide database. The operation of the statewide
    20  database shall be the responsibility of the director  of  the  statewide
    21  database,  hereinafter  referred to in this title as the "director", who
    22  shall be a member of the faculty of the state  university  of  New  York
    23  with  doctoral-level  expertise in demography, statistical analysis, and
    24  electoral systems.  The director shall be appointed by the governor.
    25    3. Statewide database staff. The director shall appoint such staff  as
    26  are necessary to implement and maintain the statewide database.
    27    4. Data, information, and estimates maintained. The statewide database
    28  shall  maintain  in  electronic  format  at least the following data and
    29  records for at least the previous twelve year period:
    30    (a) Estimates of the total  population,  voting  age  population,  and
    31  citizen  voting age population by race, ethnicity, and language-minority
    32  group, broken down to the election  district  level  on  a  year-by-year
    33  basis  for  every political subdivision in the state, based on data from
    34  the United States census bureau, American community survey, or  data  of
    35  comparable quality collected by a public office.
    36    (b)  Election  results at the election district level for every state-
    37  wide election and every election in every political subdivision.
    38    (c) Contemporaneous voter registration  lists,  voter  history  files,
    39  election  day  poll site locations, and early voting site locations, for
    40  every election in every political subdivision.
    41    (d) Contemporaneous maps, descriptions of boundaries,  and  shapefiles
    42  for election districts.
    43    (e) Election day or early voting poll sites including, but not limited
    44  to,  lists  of  election  districts  assigned  to each polling place, if
    45  applicable.
    46    (f) Apportionment plans for every election in every political subdivi-
    47  sion.
    48    (g) Any other data that the director deems advisable  to  maintain  in
    49  furtherance of the purposes of this title.
    50    5.  Public  availability of data. Except for any data, information, or
    51  estimates that identifies individual voters, the data, information,  and
    52  estimates  maintained  by  the statewide database shall be posted online
    53  and made available to the public at no cost.
    54    6. Data on race, ethnicity, and language-minority groups.  The  state-
    55  wide  database shall prepare any estimates made pursuant to this section

        S. 7528                            10

     1  by applying the most advanced, peer-reviewed,  and  validated  methodol-
     2  ogies.
     3    7.  Calculation  and publication of political subdivisions required to
     4  provide assistance to language-minority groups. On  or  before  February
     5  twenty-eighth,  two thousand twenty-one and every third year thereafter,
     6  the statewide database shall publish on its web site and transmit to the
     7  state board of elections for  dissemination  to  the  county  boards  of
     8  elections  and  for  the  state education department a list of political
     9  subdivisions required pursuant to this section to provide assistance  to
    10  members  of  language-minority  groups  and each language in which those
    11  political subdivisions are required to provide assistance. The boards of
    12  elections shall transmit the list  described  herein  to  all  political
    13  subdivisions within their jurisdiction.
    14    8.  Duty to send data and information to statewide database.  Upon the
    15  certification of election results and the completion of the voter histo-
    16  ry file after each election,  each  election  authority  shall  transmit
    17  copies  of:  (a)  election  results  at the election district level; (b)
    18  contemporaneous voter registration lists; (c) voter history  files;  (d)
    19  maps, descriptions, and shapefiles for election districts; and (e) lists
    20  of  election day poll site and early voting sites and lists, shapefiles,
    21  or descriptions of the election districts assigned to each election  day
    22  poll  site  or  early voting site. As used in this subdivision, the term
    23  "election authority" refers to  the  agency  primarily  responsible  for
    24  maintaining  the  records listed in subdivision four of this section and
    25  include any board of election, as well as general purpose local  govern-
    26  ments  or  special  purpose  local governments that administer their own
    27  elections or maintain their own voting and election records.
    28    9. Technical assistance to political subdivisions. Staff at the state-
    29  wide database may provide non-partisan technical assistance to political
    30  subdivisions, scholars, and  the  general  public  seeking  to  use  the
    31  resources of the statewide database.
    32    10.  Presumption  of  validity.  The  data, information, and estimates
    33  maintained by the statewide  database  shall  be  granted  a  rebuttable
    34  presumption of validity by any court concerning any claim brought pursu-
    35  ant to this title.
    36    § 17-210. Assistance for language-minority groups. 1. Political subdi-
    37  visions required to provide language assistance. A board of elections or
    38  a   political  subdivision  that  administers  elections  shall  provide
    39  language-related assistance in voting and elections to a language-minor-
    40  ity group in a political subdivision if the director  determines,  based
    41  on data from the American community survey, or data of comparable quali-
    42  ty collected by a public office, that:
    43    (a) more than two percent of the citizens of voting age of a political
    44  subdivision  are  members  of a single language-minority group and speak
    45  English "less than  very  well"  according  to  the  American  community
    46  survey;
    47    (b)  more  than  four  thousand  of the citizens of voting age of such
    48  political subdivision are members of a  single  language-minority  group
    49  and speak English "less than very well" according to the American commu-
    50  nity survey; or
    51    (c)  in  the  case of a political subdivision that contains all or any
    52  part of a Native American reservation, more  than  two  percent  of  the
    53  Native American citizens of voting age within the Native American reser-
    54  vation are members of a single language-minority group and speak English
    55  "less  than  very well" according to the American community survey.  For
    56  the purposes of this paragraph, "Native American" is defined to  include

        S. 7528                            11
 
     1  any persons recognized by the United States census bureau or New York as
     2  "American Indian" or "Alaska Native".
     3    2.  Language  assistance  to be provided. When the director determines
     4  that a  board  of  elections  or  political  subdivision  shall  provide
     5  language  assistance  to  a  particular  minority  group,  such board of
     6  elections or political subdivision shall provide voting materials in the
     7  covered language of  an  equal  quality  of  the  corresponding  English
     8  language  materials,  including  registration  or voting notices, forms,
     9  instructions, assistance, or other materials or information relating  to
    10  the  electoral  process, including ballots.   Whenever any such board of
    11  elections or political subdivision provides any registration  or  voting
    12  notices, forms, instructions, assistance, or other materials or informa-
    13  tion  relating to the electoral process, including ballots, in a covered
    14  political subdivision, it shall provide them  in  the  language  of  the
    15  applicable  minority  group as well as in the English language, provided
    16  that where the language of the applicable  minority  group  is  oral  or
    17  unwritten  or  in  the case of some American Indians, if the predominant
    18  language is historically unwritten, the board of elections or  political
    19  subdivision  is  only required to furnish oral instructions, assistance,
    20  or other information relating to registration and voting.
    21    3. Action for declaratory judgment for English-only voting  materials.
    22  A  board  of  elections  or  political  subdivision  that  shall provide
    23  language assistance to a  particular  minority  group,  which  seeks  to
    24  provide  English-only materials notwithstanding the determination of the
    25  director, may file an action against the state for a  declaratory  judg-
    26  ment  permitting  such  provision.  The  court shall grant the requested
    27  relief if it finds that the determination of the director was  unreason-
    28  able or an abuse of discretion.
    29    § 17-212. Preclearance.  1.  Preclearance. To ensure that the right to
    30  vote is not denied  or  abridged  on  account  of  race,  ethnicity,  or
    31  language-minority  group, as a result of the enactment or implementation
    32  of a covered policy, as defined in  subdivision  two  of  this  section,
    33  after  the  effective date of this section, the enactment or implementa-
    34  tion of a covered policy by a covered entity, as defined in  subdivision
    35  three  of  this  section,  shall be subject to preclearance by the civil
    36  rights bureau or by a designated court as set forth in this section.
    37    2. Covered policies. A "covered policy" shall include any new or modi-
    38  fied voting qualification, prerequisite to voting, law, ordinance, stan-
    39  dard, practice, procedure, regulation, or policy concerning any  of  the
    40  following topics:
    41    (a) Apportionment;
    42    (b) Method of election;
    43    (c) Form of government;
    44    (d) Annexation of a political subdivision;
    45    (e) Incorporation of a political subdivision;
    46    (f) Consolidation or division of political subdivisions;
    47    (g)  Removal of voters from enrollment lists or other list maintenance
    48  activities;
    49    (h) Number, location, or hours of any election  day  or  early  voting
    50  poll site;
    51    (i)  Dates of elections and the election calendar, except with respect
    52  to special elections;
    53    (j) Registration of voters;
    54    (k) Assignment of election districts to election day or  early  voting
    55  poll sites;
    56    (l) Assistance offered to members of a language-minority group;

        S. 7528                            12
 
     1    (m) Changes to the governmental powers of elected officials; and
     2    (n) The civil rights bureau may designate additional topics for inclu-
     3  sion  in this list pursuant to a rule promulgated under the state admin-
     4  istrative procedure act, if it determines that a new or modified  voting
     5  qualification,  prerequisite  to voting, law, ordinance, standard, prac-
     6  tice, procedure, regulation, or policy concerning such topics  may  have
     7  the effect of denying or abridging the right to vote on account of race,
     8  ethnicity, or language-minority group.
     9    3. Covered entity. A "covered entity" shall include: (a) any political
    10  subdivision  which,  within  the  previous twenty-five years, has become
    11  subject to a court order or government enforcement action based  upon  a
    12  finding  of  any violation of this title, the federal voting rights act,
    13  the fifteenth amendment to the United States constitution, or a  voting-
    14  related  violation  of  the  fourteenth  amendment  to the United States
    15  constitution; (b) any political subdivision which, within  the  previous
    16  five years, has failed to comply with its obligations to provide data or
    17  information  to  the  statewide database, as stated in section 17-208 of
    18  this title; (c) any political subdivision  which,  within  the  previous
    19  twenty-five  years, has become subject to at least three court orders or
    20  government enforcement actions based upon a finding of any violation  of
    21  any state or federal civil rights law or the fourteenth amendment to the
    22  United  States constitution concerning discrimination against members of
    23  a protected class; (d) any county in which, based on  data  provided  by
    24  the  division of criminal justice services, the combined misdemeanor and
    25  felony arrest rate of members of any protected class  consisting  of  at
    26  least  ten  thousand citizens of voting age or whose members comprise at
    27  least ten percent of the citizen voting age population  of  the  county,
    28  exceeds  that  of  the  citizen voting age population of the county as a
    29  whole by at least twenty percent at any point within  the  previous  ten
    30  years;  or  (e)  any  political subdivision in which, based on data made
    31  available by the United States census, the dissimilarity  index  of  any
    32  protected  class consisting of at least twenty-five thousand citizens of
    33  voting age or whose members comprise at least ten percent of the citizen
    34  voting age population of the political  subdivision,  is  in  excess  of
    35  fifty  with  respect to non-Hispanic white citizens of voting age within
    36  the political subdivision at any point within the previous ten years. If
    37  any covered entity is a  political  subdivision  in  which  a  board  of
    38  elections  has  been  established, that board of elections shall also be
    39  deemed a covered entity. If any political subdivision in which  a  board
    40  of elections has been established contains a covered entity fully within
    41  its  borders,  that  political  subdivision  and that board of elections
    42  shall both be deemed a covered entity.
    43    4. Preclearance by civil rights bureau. A covered  entity  may  obtain
    44  preclearance  for a covered policy from the civil rights bureau pursuant
    45  to the following process:
    46    (a) The covered entity shall submit the covered policy in  writing  to
    47  the  civil  rights  bureau of the office of the attorney general. If the
    48  covered entity is a county or city board of elections, it shall  contem-
    49  poraneously  provide  a copy of the covered policy to the state board of
    50  elections.
    51    (b) The civil rights bureau shall grant or  deny  preclearance  within
    52  the following time periods:
    53    (i) For any covered policy concerning the designation of poll sites or
    54  the assignment of election districts to poll sites, whether for election
    55  day  or  early  voting,  the  civil  rights  bureau  shall grant or deny
    56  preclearance within thirty days following the receipt of submission.  If

        S. 7528                            13
 
     1  the  civil rights bureau grants preclearance, it may, in its discretion,
     2  designate preclearance as "preliminary" in which case the  civil  rights
     3  bureau  may deny preclearance within sixty days following the receipt of
     4  submission of the covered policy.
     5    (ii) For any other covered policy, the civil rights bureau shall grant
     6  or  deny  preclearance  within  sixty  days  following  the  receipt  of
     7  submission of the covered policy.
     8    (iii) For  any  covered  policy  concerning  the  establishment  of  a
     9  district-based  or  alternative method of election, apportionment plans,
    10  or a change to the form of government of a  political  subdivision,  the
    11  civil rights bureau may invoke up to two extensions of ninety days.
    12    (c) The civil rights bureau shall grant preclearance only if it deter-
    13  mines  that the covered policy will not diminish the ability of minority
    14  groups to participate in  the  political  process  and  to  elect  their
    15  preferred  candidates  to  office.  If  the  civil  rights bureau grants
    16  preclearance, the covered entity may  enact  or  implement  the  covered
    17  policy immediately.
    18    (d)  If  the civil rights bureau denies preclearance, the civil rights
    19  bureau shall interpose objections explaining its basis and  the  covered
    20  policy shall not be enacted or implemented.
    21    (e)  If  the  civil rights bureau fails to respond within the time for
    22  response as established in this section, the  covered  policy  shall  be
    23  deemed  precleared  and  the  covered  entity may enact or implement the
    24  covered policy.
    25    (f) Appeal of any denial by the civil rights bureau may  be  heard  in
    26  the  supreme  court for the county of New York, from which appeal may be
    27  taken according to the ordinary rules of appellate procedure. Due to the
    28  frequency and urgency of elections, actions  brought  pursuant  to  this
    29  section shall be subject to expedited pretrial and trial proceedings and
    30  receive an automatic calendar preference on appeal.
    31    (g)  The civil rights bureau may promulgate such rules and regulations
    32  pursuant to the state administrative procedure act as are  necessary  to
    33  effectuate the purposes of this subdivision.
    34    5.  Preclearance  by  a  designated court. A covered entity may obtain
    35  preclearance for a covered policy from a court pursuant to the following
    36  process:
    37    (a) The covered entity shall submit the covered policy in  writing  to
    38  the  following  designated court in the judicial department within which
    39  the covered entity is located: (i) first judicial department:  New  York
    40  county;  (ii)  second  judicial  department:   Westchester county; (iii)
    41  third judicial department:  Albany  county;  and  (iv)  fourth  judicial
    42  department:  Erie  county.    If  the covered entity is a county or city
    43  board of elections, it shall contemporaneously provide  a  copy  of  the
    44  covered policy to the state board of elections.
    45    (b)  The  covered entity shall contemporaneously provide a copy of the
    46  covered policy to the civil rights bureau. The failure  of  the  covered
    47  entity  to  provide  a  copy  of  the covered policy to the civil rights
    48  bureau will result in an automatic denial of preclearance.
    49    (c) The court shall grant  or  deny  preclearance  within  sixty  days
    50  following the receipt of submission of the covered policy.
    51    (d)  The court shall grant preclearance only if it determines that the
    52  covered policy will not diminish  the  ability  of  minority  groups  to
    53  participate in the political process and to elect their preferred candi-
    54  dates  to  office.  If the court grants preclearance, the covered entity
    55  may enact or implement the covered policy immediately.

        S. 7528                            14
 
     1    (e) If the court denies preclearance, or fails to respond within sixty
     2  days, the covered policy shall not be enacted or implemented.
     3    (f)  Appeal of any denial may be taken according to the ordinary rules
     4  of appellate procedure. Due to the frequency and urgency  of  elections,
     5  actions  brought  pursuant to this section shall be subject to expedited
     6  pretrial and trial proceedings and receive an automatic calendar prefer-
     7  ence on appeal.
     8    6. Failure to seek or  obtain  preclearance.  If  any  covered  entity
     9  enacts  or  implements  a  covered  policy  without seeking preclearance
    10  pursuant to this section, or  enacts  or  implements  a  covered  policy
    11  notwithstanding  the  denial  of  preclearance,  either the civil rights
    12  bureau or any other party with standing to bring an  action  under  this
    13  title may bring an action to enjoin the covered policy and to seek sanc-
    14  tions against the political subdivision and officials in violation.
    15    § 17-214. Civil  liability  for  voter  intimidation.  1. Voter intim-
    16  idation prohibited. No person, whether acting  under  color  of  law  or
    17  otherwise,  shall  use  or  threaten  to  use  any  force,  violence  or
    18  restraint, or inflict or threaten to inflict any injury, damage, harm or
    19  loss, or in any other  manner  practice  intimidation  that  causes  any
    20  person to place or cause to be placed or refrain from placing or causing
    21  to  be  placed his name upon a registry of voters; or to vote or refrain
    22  from voting in general or for or against any particular person or for or
    23  against any proposition submitted to voters at such election.
    24    2. Voter deception prohibited. No person, whether acting  under  color
    25  of law or otherwise, shall by abduction, duress or any forcible or frau-
    26  dulent device or contrivance impede, prevent or otherwise interfere with
    27  the  free  exercise  of the elective franchise by any person eligible to
    28  vote with the purpose of interfering with the free exercise of the elec-
    29  tive franchise in any way, including registering  to  vote;  voting;  or
    30  declining  to vote; or voting for or against any particular candidate or
    31  proposition; or declining to vote for or against any  particular  candi-
    32  date  or  proposition. No person acting under color of law shall use any
    33  fraudulent device or contrivance that causes interference with the  free
    34  exercise  of the elective franchise by any person eligible to vote with-
    35  out regard to the intent underlying the use of the fraudulent device  or
    36  contrivance.
    37    3.  Standing.  Any  aggrieved  persons,  organization whose membership
    38  includes or is likely to include aggrieved persons,  organization  whose
    39  mission would be frustrated by a violation of this section, organization
    40  that  would expend resources in order to fulfill its mission as a result
    41  of a violation of this section, or the  attorney  general  may  file  an
    42  action  pursuant  to  this section in the supreme court of the county in
    43  which the alleged violation of this section occurred.
    44    4. Remedies. Upon a finding of a violation of any  provision  of  this
    45  section,  the  court  shall  implement  appropriate  remedies  that  are
    46  tailored to remedy the violation, including but not limited to providing
    47  for additional time to cast a ballot that may be counted in the election
    48  at issue. This title gives the court  authority  to  implement  remedies
    49  notwithstanding any other provision of state or local law.
    50    § 17-216. Attorney's  fees.  In any action to enforce any provision of
    51  this title, the court shall allow the prevailing plaintiff party,  other
    52  than the state or political subdivision thereof, a reasonable attorney's
    53  fee,  litigation  expenses including, but not limited to, expert witness
    54  fees and expenses as part of the costs. A plaintiff will  be  deemed  to
    55  have  prevailed  when, as a result of litigation, the political subdivi-
    56  sion yields much or all of the relief sought in the  suit.    Prevailing

        S. 7528                            15
 
     1  defendant  parties  shall  not recover any costs, unless the court finds
     2  the action to be frivolous, unreasonable, or without foundation.
     3    § 17-218. Applicability.  The  provisions of this title shall apply to
     4  all elections for any elected office  or  electoral  choice  within  the
     5  state  or  any political subdivision. The provisions of this title shall
     6  apply notwithstanding any other provision of law,  including  any  other
     7  state law or local law.
     8    § 17-220. Severability. If any provision of this title or its applica-
     9  tion  to  any  person,  political  subdivision,  or circumstance is held
    10  invalid, the invalidity shall not affect other  provisions  or  applica-
    11  tions  of  this  title  which  can  be  given effect without the invalid
    12  provision or application, and to this end the provisions of  this  title
    13  are severable.
    14    §  5.  This act shall take effect immediately; provided, however, that
    15  sections 17-208 and 17-210 of the election law as added by section  four
    16  of  this  act shall take effect three years after it shall have become a
    17  law; and provided further, however, that section 17-212 of the  election
    18  law,  as  added  by section four of this act, shall take effect one year
    19  after the attorney general certifies that the  office  of  the  attorney
    20  general  is  prepared  to execute the duties assigned in section four of
    21  this act, if after the expiration  of  one  year  the  attorney  general
    22  requires more time to certify that the office of the attorney general is
    23  prepared to execute the duties assigned in section four of this act, the
    24  attorney  general,  may, for good cause shown, apply to the governor for
    25  such an extension of time. The governor may grant or deny  an  extension
    26  of  up  to  one  year  according  to his or her discretion. The attorney
    27  general shall notify the legislative bill drafting commission  upon  the
    28  occurrence  of  the enactment of the legislation provided for in section
    29  four of this act in order that the commission may maintain  an  accurate
    30  and  timely  effective data base of the official text of the laws of the
    31  state of New York in  furtherance  of  effectuating  the  provisions  of
    32  section  44  of the legislative law and section 70-b of the public offi-
    33  cers law.
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