LetNYVote put out a package of COVID-19 related voting reforms they are hoping the legislature will take up in the coming week when session resumes. These bills are specifically related to voting during COVID and extending and expanding on changes to the absentee voting process made through executive orders for the June primary. We are supporting these bills and working with LetNYVote to put out action alerts on the legislation.
This week we sent an email to all members urging them to contact their legislators on these voting bills ahead of the November election.
NYC Online Voter Registration Legislation
The NYC Campaign Finance Board recently released a report on voter registration totals in New York City. Although there was an uptick in registrations compared to 2016 in January and February, since then, the number of new registrations have dropped drastically. The Deputy Mayor’s Democracy office has asked the League to assist in their advocacy on a bill to allow NYC to implement its online voter registration portal. This portal was created over a year ago but has not been released because the NYCBOE has said they feel they need legislative action from the state to implement the program.
We have done action alerts on this issue this year and plan to share the materials from the Democracy office once they are completed. The Democracy office is also planning a remote day of action some time next week that we will help to support.
Absentee Ballot Lawsuit
LWVNYS joined the LWVUS on a federal lawsuit brought by the Campaign Legal Center as an additional plaintiff to ensure absentee voters have the opportunity to cure their ballots for the remaining 2020 election cycle. The complaint asks the state of New York to create a cure method for voters whose ballots are rejected for a signature-related issue, including forgotten signatures or a mismatch signature. We are trying to assist the CLC in finding additional individual plaintiffs who may experience a similar concern over the signature match even when there is not a pandemic. The LWVUS and CLC hope to have the lawsuit resolved in time for the general election.
Absentee Voting Survey
The League’s absentee voting survey received responses from 1,575 voters representing 53 counties across the state. The survey asked voters about their experience voting absentee during COVID-19 including how they learned about the new absentee provisions, how they chose to apply for their absentee ballot, the average time it took to receive their ballot, and any problems they encountered. Our full report will be out later this month.
Letter Regarding Redistricting Commission Gender and Racial Diversity
The June the League sent a letter to legislative leaders and appointed members of New York's first Independent Redistricting Commission calling on them to prioritize gender and racial diversity when selecting the remaining two Commission members. Currently, only one woman has been nominated to serve on the 10-member Commission. In addition to gender diversity, the League supported NALEO Educational Fund and the LatinoJustice PRLDEF in their call for greater Latinx representation on the Commission. LatinoJustice PRLDEF has cited that more than 20% of the state's population are Latinx yet no Latinx members have been appointed. Although census counts have been delayed, the New York State Independent Redistricting Commission is required by the state constitution to release its proposed maps in September of 2021. In order to fulfill this mandate, the remaining two commissioners must be appointed in a timely manner.
Joint Legislative Hearing on Redistricting
This week we testified at a joint hearing on New York States first independent redistricting commission process. We presented comments on the need for transparency and accountability in the redistricting process as well as the need for support for the commission so it can be effective. Our good government partners also testified, Common Cause called for constitutional amendments to reform the process, and Citizens Union agrees with our position that at this point we should not be seeking to amend the process the voters approved in 2014 but instead try to make sure the it is allowed to work as intended. The earliest any amendment can be effective is January 1, 2022.
Remote Census Conference
The New York Counts 2020 coalition held a remote conference this week. The webinars included a panel on redistricting which Jennifer participated in. The conference was promoted through our weekly email and on our social media.
Get Out the Count Census Ambassador Training
In June the League held a remote training on how to conduct census outreach while social distancing led by Hillary Medina-Loveless of the Leadership Conference, and Meeta Anand of New York Immigration Coalition. The a one-hour training covered how to communicate the importance of the census and engage your network into this important work. We had 117 members register, and around 85 participate. The training Powerpoint and links to the recording were sent after the meeting. A recording of the webinar can be found here.
Good Government Work
The League signed onto a letter urging a review of the Governor’s indefinite executive authority during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. After the letter was released, several news articles came out that exaggerated our position on this issue. We received several emails, from concerned members especially in the Western part of the state, who felt that we were asking to curtain the Governor’s power too soon. We issued a statement to our members clarifying our position related to transparency in government, government accountability, and ethics. We also reminded our members that whether or not we agreed with the actions of the Governor has taken over the last 3 months, no elected official should have autonomous power over the state that can be extended indefinitely without any sort of checks and balances in place.
By: Sally Robinson and Jennifer Wilson