Advocacy groups make last-minute push for senate to expand voting rights

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As the state legislative session in Albany approaches its June 20 end, a number of advocacy groups around New York, including in Nassau County, are pressing lawmakers to OK new laws that could expand voting rights.

Let NY Vote is statewide movement pushing for voting laws that are similar to those of other states, including early voting and automatic registration.

The Senate could vote on two voting reform bills, including S3304A, which would allow automatic registration, and S7400A, which would allow early voting. However, both bills are stuck in the rules committee, and can only be voted on if they are brought to the voting floor.

“New York State remains woefully behind the rest of the country on voting rights,” Democratic Senator John Brooks said. “We must enact reforms to bring our antiquated voting laws and our democracy into the 21st Century. I will remain a staunch supporter for common-sense reforms like early voting and automatic voter registration.”

Representatives of the Long Island Progressive Coalition, a 39-year-old Massapequa-based organization that has partnered with Let NY Vote, said that New York ranks 41st in the nation for voter turnout.

“As the Senate legislative session ends this week, once again, Albany has chosen party politics over needed voting reforms like early voting,” LIPC’s Dan Fingas said. “One of Long Island’s own — State Senator John Flanagan — is the majority leader in the Senate. As his caucus continues to shrink, he is more concerned with holding onto power then he is with fixing our broken election system.”

Let NY Vote is pushing for five voting rights to be passed in NY: early voting, automatic registration, flexibility to change party affiliation, pre-registration of 16 and 17-year-olds and allowing people on parole to vote.

Currently, New York is one of 13 states that does not allow early voting.

Also, in New York, in order to change political parties before the 2016 primary election, voters had to register a change six months before the election, before the candidates even solidified their campaigns. All other states have open primaries, or allow voters to change parties closer to primary elections.

“It’s important to get people on the voting rolls,” Richard Watkins, of Merrick, said. “It’s important to make it more easier for people to vote, not more difficult.”

Groups like the LIPC have been pleading with NY citizens over social media to call their local senators.

“Every Long Islander can call their own state senator, and Majority Leader Flanagan, and tell them we need Early Voting now,” Fingas said. “For example, residents of East Meadow can call their State Senator Kemp Hannon and Flanagan.”

Since 2017, 577 bills have been signed into law, including a tuition waiver for police students of CUNY and the prohibition of distributing electronic cigarettes to minors.