Will New York's outdated voting laws finally be reformed?

- The last-minute push to register to vote in the November 6 midterms is on. With New York's deadline looming, places like NYU make it as easy as possible to get signed up. But for the rest of us, it might not be as simple.

For starters, if you want to register online you need a New York State ID or driver's license. Don't have one? Well, then you have to register in person or print the form, sign it and mail it in. Impossible? No. But inconvenient.

"It's not an insurmountable hurdle," Common Cause New York executive director Susan Lerner said. "But why do we make it so hard?"

New York lags the rest of the nation when it comes to voting and voter-registration laws, which were written in the 1890s and 1930s, and haven't changed much, Lerner said.

"People who move here from other places, from other states are shocked when they see how we run our elections here," Lerner said

The coalition Let NY Vote said that 37 states offer early voting. New York isn't one of them. New York also isn't one of the 14 states that have automatic registration. And 18 states now have same-day registration. But, nope, not New York.

So why can't New York get these commonsense measures passed?

"The simple answer is politics," state Sen. Michael Gianaris, D-Queens, said.

He has sponsored the Voter Empowerment Act for the past six years. Among the reforms it includes is automatic voter registration anytime an eligible voter visits a state government agency. But every year the bill has stalled in the Republican-controlled Senate.

"There are some people in office who think it's better for them if fewer people vote," Gianaris said.

He plans to introduce the bill again in January. A separate early-voting bill will also be back on the docket.

Both Gianaris and Lerner are hopeful that a surge in voter engagement in November will mean more political will to finally change the outdated laws.

"Whoever is in charge of the legislature, we're expecting to see election reform," Lerner said.

"This should be an issue that's beyond politics," Gianaris said. "We should all agree that the more people participate in our elections the better off we all are."

Friday, October 12, is not just the deadline to register to vote in New York for the November midterms. It is also the deadline to change your party affiliation for next year's primary. In the next session, lawmakers hope to tackle legislation that would make switching party affiliation easier.

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