Bklyn Lawmakers Announce Enactment Of Sweeping Election Reforms

Newly elected State Sen. Zellnor Myrie (D-Brownsville, Crown Heights, East Flatbush, Gowanus, Park Slope, Prospect Heights, Prospect Lefferts Gardens, South Slope, Sunset Park) has not taken long to make a big splash in Albany.

Myrie, not even a month into his first term and chair of the Senate’s Elections Committee, saw Gov. Andrew Cuomo sign into law his bill (S1102) allowing for early voting. Specifically, the measure allows eligible voters in New York State to vote in person during a specific window in advance of Election Day.

“Voting is the right that protects all other rights, yet too many New Yorkers struggle to get to the ballot box because of family responsibilities, work responsibilities, or other barriers. Early voting will give more people the opportunity to vote, making our government more inclusive, responsible, and accountable to its voters,” said Myrie.

Brooklyn state lawmakers from left are Assemblymember Robert Carroll, State Sen. Zellnor Myrie, Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon and State Sen. Brian Kavanagh. Contributed photo.

But Myrie’s bill was only part of legislative package of election reform bills that Cuomo signed. Also playing major roles in package were Brooklyn Lawmakers State Sen. Brian Kavanagh (D-Northern Brooklyn, LOwer Manhattan), and Assemblymembers Robert Carroll (D-Park Slope, Windsor Terrace, Kensington, Ditmas, Park) and Jo Anne Simon (D-Brooklyn Heights, Downtown Brooklyn, Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens, Gowanus, Park Slope, Boerum Hill, DUMBO) part of this

Kavanagh and Simon were the prime sponsors in their respective chambers in reforming the state’s campaign finance system through their closing the LLC Loophole (Kavanagh, S1101/Simon, A776).

This bill amends election law to ensure that limited liability corporations adhere to the same $5,000 contribution limit as corporations. This amendment also requires that LLCs making contributions to campaigns disclose the identity and proportion of ownership of all direct and indirect owners of that LLC’s membership interests. Finally, it requires all contributions to made to political committees or campaigns by an LLC be attributed to each member in proportion to that member’s ownership interest.

Kavanagh called closing the LLC Loophole the most egregious defect in the state campaign finance system. “It will cut off an enormous flow of unlimited, often virtually anonymous campaign contributions that have allowed certain individuals and narrow business interests to buy influence wholesale. This is a huge first step in what I hope will be a broader modernization of our campaign finance system,” Kavanagh said.

Simon said New Yorkers deserve transparency and fairness in the electoral process and closing the notorious LLC loophole is an important step forward.

“New York will no longer allow the wealthy and special interests to anonymously pour unlimited amounts of money into campaigns in hopes of influencing preferred candidates. Closing the LLC loophole will blunt the outsized influence of those who control LLCs and enable the voices of average New Yorkers to be heard,” said Simon.

Carroll was the prime sponsor of legislation (A777) allowing for a constitutional amendment to enact same-day voter registration. This measure will need to be passed again in the next legislative session and then approved by a statewide referendum.

“As a member of the Assembly Election Law committee, a former election lawyer and someone who has been advocating for electoral reform for many years prior to my election in 2016 – I am proud and heartened that the first thing we did this legislative session was take steps to reform New York’s antiquated voting laws,” said Carroll.

“The effects of some of these reforms will be seen immediately in our 2019 elections, while others, like Same Day Registration, on which I am the prime sponsor, will require additional steps necessary for a constitutional change, so we must continue to fight for these and additional reforms like establishing electronic poll books, minimizing the party enrollment change deadline to the constitutional minimum of 10 days, lowering the voting age to 17 and more,” he added.

Other voting reforms that were signed into law through this package include:

  • No-Excuse Absentee Voting (Comrie, S1049/Vanel, A778): This bill will amend the state Constitution to allow for any voter to request to vote by mail without declaring a reason, subject to second passage of the next legislature and approval by a statewide referendum.

  • Consolidation of Federal and State Primaries (Stewart-Cousins, S1103/Lavine, A779): This bill will make sure federal and state primary elections occur on the same day, saving taxpayer dollars and time for voters. It also puts New York’s election law in compliance with the federal Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment (MOVE) Act.

Improving the Voter Registration Processes

  • Voter Registration Transfers (Carlucci, S1099/Dinowitz, A775):  This bill will require the Board of Elections to transfer the registration and enrollment of a voter to wherever they move in New York State.

  • Voter Pre-Registration (Carlucci, S1100/Lavine, A774): This bill will enable 16- and 17-year olds to pre-register to vote and requires local boards of education to adopt policies to promote student voter registration and pre-registration.

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