NYSUT is urging the state Legislature to implement early voting and other initiatives that would make voting easier and increase turnout.
Let NY Vote — a campaign backed by labor unions, good-government, nonprofit, civil- and immigrant-rights, and clergy groups — wants lawmakers to adopt early voting and other poll-access initiatives as part of the 2018–19 state budget. More than three dozen states and the District of Columbia already have some form of early voting. The coalition says the state's outdated election rules are, at least in part, why only 29 percent of New York State's eligible population voted in the last statewide election.
"It's long past time for the state to make voting more convenient for New Yorkers through early voting, automatic registration and electronic poll books," said NYSUT President Andy Pallotta. "New York should join the 37 other states that have already taken these steps — and others — to make the actual voting process simpler and easier."
So far the coalition has been successful — the nearly 20,000 petition signatures and editorial board support from the New York Times convinced Cuomo to add $7 million in funding to his executive budget proposal. The aid would support the plan and help counties pay for opening polls early.
More than 100 activists holding signs that read "No One Should Have to Choose Between their Job and Their Vote" and "Vote Early — Save Democracy" recently rallied at the state Capitol in support of early voting, same-day registration and other measures to increase voter participation.
"New York's voter participation lags behind other states not because we are apathetic, but because our process is too restrictive — especially for already-marginalized communities," said the Rev. Emily McNeill, executive director of the Labor-Religion Coalition of NYS. "If we are truly committed to an inclusive, democratic society, early voting is a no-brainer."
A recent Siena College poll found that 65 percent of New Yorkers support early voting.
"Whether you are a single mother working two jobs, or retired with limited transportation options, everyone deserves a convenient opportunity to cast a ballot," said Jennifer Wilson, legislative director of the League of Women Voters of New York State.
On March 5–6, NYSUT members at the union's annual Committee of 100 will urge lawmakers to adopt the early voting proposal as part of the enacted state budget.