New York City Could Get Early Vote

New York City Could Get Early Vote

New York, NY – New Yorkers may soon be able to vote early, according to a bill being introduced today by City Council Members Ben Kallos and Costa Constantinides with support of members of the City Council's Progressive Caucus. The bill would allow residents to vote in municipal elections early, from the second Tuesdayprior to the election to the Friday prior to the election from 8am-8pm during the week and from 9am-5pm on the weekend in at least one polling place in each of the fifty-one council districts.

Two-thirds of US States and Washington, D.C. offer early voting to residents. New York State, however, currently only allows early voting through absentee ballots with an excuse such as an unavoidable absence or an illness. In those cases, one can vote by mail or in person at the Board of Elections Office. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2010, 27% of nonvoters said that the reason they did not vote was because they were too busy or could not get time off.
“New Yorkers should be able to vote when it is convenient for them, not when it is convenient for elected officials,” said Council Member Ben Kallos, Chair of the Committee on Governmental Operations, which oversees the Board of Elections. “It should be easier for more New Yorkers to participate and to vote, so we can raise our city’s participation rates from one of the lowest in the nation. One step is removing the barrier to voting created by having elections on only one day.”

Council Member Costa Constantinides said, "As a city founded on democratic principles, we must encourage democratic values and behavior, especially voter participation.  Our city's voter turnout is historically lower than the rest of the state and nationally. Increasing opportunities to vote before Election Day would do a great deal to help stop this trend and increase turnout.  The right to vote is strengthened the more people exercise that right. That's why I am co-sponsoring Council Member Kallos' bill to institute early voting in city elections and I encourage our colleagues to support it."

"As states and municipalities around the country take backward steps towards curbing voting rights and limiting access to the polls, we must do more in New York City to protect and uphold this most basic democratic right," said Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer. "I'm proud to support this introduction which will better enfranchise all New Yorkers, particularly the most overburdened and underserved."

"Democracies function best when all residents participate. Limiting voting to just one day during the week hinders participation, as many New Yorkers, especially in my district, face long commutes to and from work, adding to an already long workday. This early voting bill encourages participation by increasing access to the ballot box, and I am confident that its passage would lead to a healthier democracy for our city," said Council Member Debi Rose.  

“As an organization dedicated to increasing access to the ballot and voter participation, we are pleased to see City Councilmember Kallos introduce new legislation on early voting as it will spark valuable dialogue around how the city can reduce barriers to voting and engage voters,” said Dick Dadey, Executive Director of Citizens Union. 

“We need to do all we can to facilitate voter participation. The strength of our democracy depends on expanding access to voting.  Busy New Yorkers need more opportunities to vote, and Common Cause NY eagerly supports this bill to expand voting days and opportunities in New York City,” said Susan Lerner, Executive Director.

"Early voting should help boost participation and reduce many of the long lines and problems at poll sites typical in Presidential years and other elections with heavy turnout," said Neal Rosenstein, NYPIRG's Government Reform Coordinator.  "This promises to make voting easier and reduce problems at the polls," he added.
A 2010 report from Mayor Bloomberg found that New York City has some of the most restrictive voter access laws in the nation and exceedingly low turnout. Early voting was proposed as a solution to raise participation rates. ###; height: 8px; opacity: 0.3; width: 20px; background-position: initial initial; background-repeat: no-repeat no-repeat; " />