The new Democrat-controlled state Legislature on Monday took its first actions, passing a package of legislation they say will make voting easier and close a major loophole that has allowed corporations to skirt campaign finance limits.
The suit of bills that cleared the Senate and Assembly will allow for the first voters to go to the polls up to 10 days before an election, consolidate the state and federal primaries to a single day, allow 16- and 17-year-olds to pre-register to vote, and begin the process of changing the state constitution to allow same-day voter registration and voting by mail.
“Government should be about breaking down barriers, which is why the Senate Democratic Majority is making it easier for those who are eligible to vote. We need more voices in our democracy, not fewer,” said new state Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D-Yonkers).
New York traditionally has among the lowest turnouts in the country.
The package also includes a long awaited plan to close what is know as the LLC loophole that allows corporations to skirt campaign donation limits by creating an unlimited amount of limited liability companies that can each donate higher amounts.
The state Assembly had passed most, if not all, the bills in previous years only to see them blocked by Republicans who controlled the Senate. But with the Democrats having won control of the Senate for the first time in a decade, the bills sailed through.
Senate Republicans argued that some bills, like early voting, would not improve turnout as Democrats say, would impose undue financial hardships on upstate counties, and potentially jeopardize voter security.
They also said that donations from labor unions, which traditionally have been strong donors to Democrats, not just LLCs, should be capped.
Gov. Cuomo, who had called for passage of the electoral reform package and promised to sign the legislation, said Monday he will propose going further when he unveils his state budget plan on Tuesday.
Cuomo said he will propose banning all corporate donations, making Election Day a state holiday, enacting automatic registration for those who deal with government offices, and expanding online registration options.
He also has previously called for creation of a statewide public campaign finance system.
“At a time when the federal government is doing everything it can to disenfranchise voters, we are taking action to make it easier for New Yorkers to participate in the democratic process and crack down on corporate influences in our election,” Cuomo said.