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A Great First Step: New York State to Advance Voting Rights and Campaign Finance Reform

Jan. 14, 2019

A Great First Step: New York State to Advance Voting Rights and Campaign Finance Reform

Statement of Jonah Minkoff-Zern, Co-Director of Public Citizen’s Democracy Is For People Campaign

Note: Today, New York state legislators will vote on electoral reform bills that would expand voting rights by providing for early voting, same-day registration, voting by mail, pre-registration for teenagers and the consolidation of state and federal primary elections. The measures also would limit a loophole that allows individuals to avoid campaign donation limits by forming LLCs and donating separately through each one. The package is similar to the For the People Act (H.R. 1), which has been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives, but the state package omits key elements, including small-donor matching funds, the restoration of voting rights for parolees, automatic voter registration and stronger campaign finance restrictions.

New York ranks among the worst states in the nation in voter turnout because we have weak campaign finance laws and laws that make it hard to vote. It’s exciting to see that the New York Legislature has heard the voices of thousands of us who have petitioned, called, met with our lawmakers and traveled to Albany to demand changes. We hope these will be the first of a series of significant reforms that pass the Legislature this year and that New York will become a model as the federal government also works to move forward similar reforms.

The eyes of the nation are on New York. By passing these and other essential electoral reforms, the state can help push the nation forward in building a stronger democracy. On the federal front, critical to this effort are the For the People Act, the Voting Rights Advancement Act and the Democracy for All Amendment to overturn Citizens United.

The Trump administration represents both a symptom and a cause of challenges our democracy faces, but it has been a wake-up call to citizens. Knowing that we need to fortify our nation’s democracy or risk losing it, people are taking the streets in record numbers.

Now is the time for bold action, and New York’s package is an excellent starting point.