In testimony submitted today to the New York State Assembly, New York State Bar Association (NYSBA) President Michael Miller presented the State Bar’s views on access to the electoral system for New York’s voters. Modernizing voting in order to increase voter participation is a legislative priority of NYSBA.
“Voting in the United States is one of our most fundamental rights, ensuring our ability to participate in the electoral process,” wrote Miller in the submitted testimony. “However, the rate of voter participation in New York State is frequently ranked among the lowest in the nation. Measures to remove barriers to registration and voting and to encourage participation, while maintaining the integrity of the process, could go a long way to improve civic engagement and enhance our democracy.”
Based on the 2013 report from NYSBA’s bipartisan Special Committee on Voter Participation, the association believes that New York State needs to modernize its system for registering voters, a process that will have a very significant impact on voter participation by bringing New York’s rates of registration and voter participation up to levels above 80 percent within a few years.
To modernize the voter registration system, NYSBA recommends voter registration opportunities be offered to New Yorkers online, in the mail and whenever they engage in a transaction with a state agency. NYSBA also recommends the development of a program for the voluntary pre-registration of 16- and 17-year olds, and calls for the state to take the steps necessary to permit Election Day or same day registration.
To enhance the voting process, NYSBA also recommends that a form of in-person early voting be adopted, making it easier for many voters to get to the polls, preferably one that extends the time for voting through the weekend before Election Day.
Additional changes that should be implemented to make the voting process more accommodating for voters include: improving ballot design to minimize voter confusion; providing ballots in multiple languages; expanding recruitment and training of polling place workers; and stiffening penalties to reflect existing penalties for voter registration fraud.
Read President Miller’s full testimony here.
The 2013 Report from the Special Committee on Voter Participation can be read in full here.
About the New York State Bar Association
The New York State Bar Association is the largest voluntary state bar association in the nation. Since 1876, the Association has helped shape the development of law, educated and informed the legal profession and the public, and championed the rights of New Yorkers through advocacy and guidance in our communities.
Contact: Brendan Kennedy