Better Democracy in the New York State 2019 Legislative Session

Call Your State Representative

Call your state representative and tell them that you support voting rights restoration and automatic voter registration!

Get the Script

The top priority of NY Indivisibles (based on our survey of Indivisibles around the state) is democracy reform. While obstructionist Republicans stall H.R. 1, which would protect democracy nationwide on the federal level, there’s plenty that we can accomplish in New York State. The Independent Democratic Caucus (IDC) was all but destroyed by constituent activism and people’s determination to see a #TrueBlueNY. Now the next phase begins: we’re bringing voting rights in New York into the 21st century.

The state legislature kicked off their session on January 14. On day one, we saw the actualization of years of nonstop pressure: many pieces of the Let NY Vote campaign package were introduced and passed, bringing about dramatic democratic reforms.

New Yorkers will now have access to:

  • In-person early voting up to 10 days before an election

  • Consolidated state and federal primaries

  • Pre-registration for 16 and 17 year olds

  • Constitutional amendments to allow same-day registration and voting by mail

Passing these voting reforms on the first day of the 2019 legislative session sent a strong and clear message: we won’t accept anything but full modernization of New York’s elections.

Democracy Reform isn’t over in NY!

While major reforms were passed on day one, the fight isn’t over yet. There are several pieces of the Let NY Vote package that have not passed yet:

  • Automatic voter registration (S 1278)

  • Voting rights restoration for people on parole (A4987/S 1931)

  • Direct funding for early voting in the state budget, so counties will be able to implement 10 days of in-person voting before elections

  • Flexibility to change party affiliation, so that people can vote in primaries without registering their party months in advance (no standalone bill; provision is contained in S 1278 to change deadline to 25 days before primary)

Indivisibles are also working in partnership with the Fair Elections NY campaign to implement comprehensive campaign finance reform to restore balance to New York’s political process, which currently favors the wealthy and far too often ignores everyday New Yorkers.

The Fair Elections NY effort seeks to implement a small donor matching system for state elections. Matching small dollar donations 6-to-1 would provide critical financial support to those who often feel like they can’t afford to run. As a result, women, people of color, people in the working and middle classes, and other underrepresented New Yorkers will have more access to participate in the political process. 

How We Win

State of play

The remaining better democracy initiatives will not pass without constituent action. After enacting a large part of the Let NY Vote package on day 1, there is a real danger that legislators will feel their jobs are done and turn their attention to other issues.

Automatic voter registration, voting rights for people on parole, and flexibility to change parties currently have bills in the Senate, and we are hoping to see movement on these issues in the Assembly soon. They may receive committee hearings—which are typically private—before heading to the floor for a vote. 

In March, we focused our fight on the budget, especially funding for early voting and small donor matching. After an incredible month of organizing, the budget guarantees matching and creates a commission which must come up with a full implementation plan by December 1. This is a good start, but the budget doesn't specify key details we asked for, such as the ratio of the match and contribution limits. The commission could create a robust program like New York City’s, which matches donations 6-to-1 or it could create a toothless program that effectively keeps the old system in place. That’s why we need to keep up the fight, starting with who gets appointed to this commission.

For more information on how the New York State Legislature works, check out our Indivisible Guide to the New York State Legislature.

What you can do

Additional Resources