(The Center Square) – New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a bill that will make it easier for state residents to register to vote when they interact with a variety of government agencies.
The goal of the legislation is to increase voter turnout, although one Republican lawmaker warned that it could lead to increased fraud.
According to a news release from state Sen. Michael Gianaris, D-Astoria, one of the sponsors of the legislation, New York has had poor turnout in recent elections compared to other states. In 2018, the Empire State ranked 48th lowest in the nation for eligible voters who actually went to the polls.
With the passage of the voter registration bill, New York joins 18 other states and Washington, D.C., in enacting such a law, he said.
“Access to the ballot box should be easy and fair, and enacting Automatic Voter Registration will go a long way towards improving voter participation,” Gianaris said. “I am proud and thankful that the Governor has signed this bill, paving the way for over a million more New Yorkers to vote.”
But Assemblyman Colin Schmitt, R-Washingtonville, said the legislation will do harm to the integrity of the state’s elections. He took issue with what he described as the elimination of “all penalties” for illegally registering to vote or even casting an illegal vote.
“This partisan automatic voter fraud bill is a serious danger to our democracy and will allow illegal aliens and non-citizens to undermine and participate in our elections with no criminal consequences as a result,” Schmitt said in a news release.
Under the bill, the Department of Motor Vehicles will be directed to have a method to automatically sign up residents to vote by 2023. The Department of Health, Department of Labor and the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance are directed to follow suit by 2024, and the State University of New York by 2025.
"The right to vote is one of, if not the most, sacred pillars of our democracy and for too long, bureaucratic red tape has made it unnecessarily difficult for New Yorkers to exercise this right," Cuomo said in a statement. "From instituting early voting to making necessary reforms to the absentee ballot process, New York has already made elections more accessible, but we are far from finished. With this new law on the books, we are taking this work a step further and not only instituting automatic voter registration, but creating a single uniform platform for registering online."
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