WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Friday, June 9, before concluding its legislative session, the New York Legislature passed Senate Bill 7394, a bill that would permit any voter to vote by mail during the early voting period. Also known as the “New York Early Mail Voter Act,” the bill passed both chambers of the Democratic-controlled Legislature and now heads to Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) for her signature.
Currently, the New York Constitution only allows voters to vote by mail if they qualify with a few specific excuses, such as a disability, illness or absence from their county on Election Day. In 2021, New York voters had the opportunity to change that provision but ultimately rejected an amendment to allow anyone to vote by mail.
Consequently, S.B. 7394 is considered a workaround that would not require constitutional change: Instead of implementing a true absentee voting system, S.B. 7394 would allow voters to cast a mail-in ballot without an excuse during the pre-existing, nine-day early voting period only.
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic during the 2020 election, numerous states, including New York, temporarily altered their mail-in voting laws to allow any voter to cast a ballot by mail. Massachusetts and Rhode Island made those reforms permanent in 2022. This year, Connecticut and Delaware are advancing measures to change state constitutions to authorize all votes to cast a ballot by mail. New York’s latest bill will help the Empire State catch up with 27 other states and Washington, D.C that offer no-excuse mail-in voting.
Other voting reforms that passed the Legislature on the final days of the session and head to Hochul include:
- Senate Bill 1733, which would expand voter registration, pre-registration and voter education programs in New York high schools.
- Assembly Bill 4009, which would require local correctional facilities to share voting information to people upon release. It is unclear how the bill would solve the issue of misinformation and lack of information about eligibility while held in local jails, where most people in New York maintain the right to vote.
- Assembly Bill 1177, which would allow mail-in ballots with certain defects on the envelope to be counted as normal without cure procedures.