Measures designed to make it easier to vote and reduce discrimination at the ballot box advanced in the Democratic-led New York state Senate on Monday, the first package of measures to be approved in the new legislative session.
But some of the measures, including an effort to make changes to the local administration of boards of election, face uncertain paths in the Democratic-led state Assembly.
The bills approved on Monday include provisions to expand early voting by allowing counties to create portable polling places. Lawmakers also want to allow for absentee ballot drop-off box locations and allow for people to provide snacks and non-alcoholic beverages to voters waiting in line.
Another bill would make voter suppression in New York a criminal offense.
“I’m proud of the tradition we’ve started as a Senate Majority to have our first day of session improve our democratic process and pay homage to the voters of this state who have elected us to these positions,” Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said. “I’m proud to be the sponsor of legislation today that will make voter suppression a criminal offense. While sometimes voter suppression occurs subtly, oftentimes the effort is much more pronounced and widespread. Disenfranchisement cannot exist in New York, and my bill, along with the other important pieces of legislation being passed today will continue to modernize our electoral system and create a fairer and more transparent system.”
Separately, lawmakers in the state Senate are backing an effort to restructure the New York City Board of Elections, a move that has not gained traction beyond that chamber in recent years.
"We issued a landmark report calling for major changes to the way New York conducts its elections, from how poll workers are trained to how commissioners are appointed and removed," said state Sen. Zellnor Myrie. "I'm grateful to my Senate Majority colleagues for prioritizing these reforms and look forward to seeing them signed into law.”