The New York Automatic Voter Registration Act, a law that would make it easier to vote in the state that was introduced by Queens Senate Deputy Leader Michael Gianaris in the legislative body, was signed into law on Tuesday, Dec. 22.
The legislation will automatically register New Yorkers who are eligible to vote upon interactions with various state and local agencies.
“At a time in our country when voting rights are under assault, New York is living up to our potential as a progressive leader,” said Gianaris. “Access to the ballot box should be easy and fair, and enacting Automatic Voter Registration will go a long way towards improving voter participation. I am proud and thankful that the governor has signed this bill, paving the way for over a million more New Yorkers to vote.”
New York typically ranks as one of the states with the lowest voter turnout in the country. In the 2018 midterms, New York ranked 48th in the U.S. with a 40 percent voter turnout — a significant increase from previous elections.
In response, the state passed a series of election reforms in 2019, including allowing eight days of early voting before an election and synchronized federal and state primary elections.
Brooklyn Assembly member Latrice Walker, a co-sponsor of the bill, said the law positions the state “on the right side of democracy.”
“I am proud to be the prime sponsor of this monumental election reform bill. The right to vote is fundamental in a democracy such as ours and has been under attack for over one hundred and fifty years,” said Walker. “The Automatic Voter Registration (AVR) bill puts New York state on the right side of democracy and history by acknowledging years of voter suppression and making the process to register to vote easy, and accessible to New Yorkers. I along with the other members of the legislature will continue to fight for the fundamental rights that keep our democracy alive. Voting should be easy, efficient and accessible.”
New York joins 18 other states and Washington, D.C., that have made voting more accessible in some way. Oregon was one of the first states to implement automatic voter registration, and saw one of the highest turnout rates in the 2016 election.
Advocates applauded the legislation as another way to reach a more diverse set of voters.
“We are seeing so many flaws in the fabric of our democracy. Constant attacks on our electoral system disproportionately impact youth and people of color,” said Plus1Vote co-founder Saad Amer. “Automatic voter registration will enfranchise thousands and remove unnecessary huddles to participating in our democracy. I am glad this legislation is finally enacted after years of effort by so many, and I appreciate Senator Gianaris his unwavering determination on this issue.”