‘This is a strong statement’: New voting laws take effect in January 2024

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. – Major changes are in the works for voters, ahead of the 2024 election. On Wednesday, Governor Kathy Hochul signed a large package of election reform bills into law.

One of the biggest changes? You can now vote early by mail for the first time in New York State. Advocates say this is a game-changer, in making the election process more accessible.

“It’s a strong statement that New York is voter friendly, and in New York we protect our democracy,” said Susan Lerner, Executive Director with Common Cause New York.

She said today is a big win for voters.

“Thank goodness that New York has finally come into the 21st century, and made voting-by-mail accessible to all eligible voters,” she said .”We joined states across the union in allowing people to get a mail-in ballot.”

The law is exactly how it sounds. All you have to do is register, and request a ballot.

But be sure not to confuse it with absentee voting. Lerner said that’s controlled by a different part of the constitution, and it’s restrictive; it only applies to people who are sick, or away. This new law increases accessibility to the maximum number of people.

“We trust our voters to pick our leaders. We should be able to trust our voters to decide how and when to vote.”

Early voting first came to New York State in 2020. Governor Kathy Hochul said these new laws signify another step forward.

“Our voting hours were often 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.; which sounds like plenty of time to vote. Unless you’re a single mom getting up at the crack of dawn, having to pack the lunches, having to take the subway for an hour to go to your minimum wage job, and then after school you might be stopping to see your mother and father in a nursing home, maybe then you go to your second job, and then help kids with homework, and it’s after 9 p.m. when you’re home,” said Hochul.

Some proposals were rejected by New York voters in 2021, by a margin of 55% to 45%. This includes the same-day voter registration law and mail-in voting. Those opposed, call the changes unconstitutional, and plan on challenging in court.

Here’s a quick overview of the other laws signed on Wednesday:

  • Regular training for poll workers.
  • Education in schools, for pre-registration.
  • New Yorkers can to register to vote, and cast their ballot at the same polling place — on the same day.
  • Absentee ballots can be counted if they have been taped, and show no signs of tampering.
  • A deadline will be required for changing location of a polling place for an early voting period.
  • Local jails will provide voter registration info to individuals of voting age, upon their release from a local correctional facility.
  • An established date of April 2, 2024 for the Presidential Primary Election.
  • The state will prohibit ‘forum shopping’ in constitutional challenges for election cases.
  • The state will prohibit ‘faithless electors’ from impacting the outcome of a presidential election.