Modernize and Improve Voter Access

The New York State AFL-CIO strongly urges the Legislature to enact voting reforms and improvements that will help individuals access the polls and exercise their right to vote. Individuals face systematic and administrative barriers that inhibit the ability to register and vote. We now have the technology and ability to change that and improve the dismal turnout that has plagued our elections in recent years.

First and foremost, we should enact no-excuse absentee ballots. Modern family life makes it difficult and sometimes impossible for individuals to vote in person on election day. But, the New York State Constitution and current law requires that one must be out of their county of residence to vote absentee. We need to update those provisions to allow families who may not be out of the county, but are still unable to attend in-person, to vote.

We should also enact same day registration, fully electronic registration and allow for automatic transfer registration when a voter moves to a new address but still resides in-state to eliminate the need to re-register. Technology easily allows for each of these reforms, and given that virtually every other function of government, including the payment of taxes and renewal of licenses, can be done electronically there is no reason voter registration should be any more difficult.

Together, these reforms will make it easier for individuals to exercise the most fundamental and basic rights in any democracy. Given the repeated and cyclical poor voter turnout and the fact New York state consistently has among the lowest voter turnouts of all 50 states, it is time to act.

Mario Cilento, President