WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Monday, Jan. 9, New York Democrats announced that they were moving several pro-voting reforms through the state Senate. “Once again, the Senate Majority’s first order of business for the year is passing bills to make voting easier and protect our rights. This has become an annual tradition for us: not because it benefits one party or the other, but because it is the right thing to do for our democracy,” said state Sen. Zellnor Myrie (D), chair of the Elections Committee. In a press release, the lawmakers highlighted a handful of bills that all passed the state Senate on Jan. 9:
- Senate Bill 242 would allow local boards of election to open more portable early voting sites.
- Senate Bill 610 would allow boards to operate more absentee ballot drop-off locations.
- Senate Bill 263 would make voter suppression and deceptive practices punishable offenses.
- Senate Bill 350 would require plaintiffs who challenge the constitutionality of New York election laws to file lawsuits in certain judicial departments. The bill aims to curtail “forum shopping,” a practice where litigants file lawsuits in jurisdictions with favorable judges.
- Senate Bill 657 would create a statewide voting and elections database to aid the public and election administrators.
- Senate Bill 616 would effectively rescind an out-of-date ban on providing food and water for voters waiting at the polls, otherwise known as a line-warming ban. Individuals would be permitted to hand out any item with “a nominal value, including but not limited to, snacks, water, soft drinks, or other refreshments.”
In total, there have been upwards of two dozen election bills already filed in the New York Legislature. In addition to the Democratic priorities listed above, other introduced bills would implement universal mail-in voting, which would automatically send voters a mail-in ballot every election; require bilingual poll workers in areas with high percentages of non-English speaking voters; end felony disenfranchisement; add protections against unnecessary voter purges; adopt ranked-choice voting for primaries; raise poll worker pay; create same-day registration and more.