Gov. Kathy Hochul signed legislation Friday to assist New Yorkers in understanding proposed constitutional amendments and other questions that are put on voters’ ballots in New York state.
The legislation states that any proposed amendments or other ballot measures must be explained using language that is “plain and clear," allowing voters to fully grasp the practical impact of adopting or rejecting the measure being proposed to them.
Hochul touted the move as an effort to ensure a level playing field when New Yorkers head to the polls.
“Generations of Americans have fought for the right to vote, and New York is doing our part to ensure access to the ballot box is fair and equitable," Hochul said. "I proudly signed the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act of New York into law last year, and am pleased to enact this new legislation which will ensure New Yorkers are informed and protected when they cast their vote on proposed constitutional amendments.”
The legislation lies out specifics for the language used when amendments and questions are put up for a vote, stipulating that all ballot language be written at or below an 8th grade reading level, and also must be written in a "yes" or "no" format, so all citizens have a fair opportunity to confidently cast their ballots.
“I am thankful to see my plain language ballot bill signed into law today,” said state Sen. Leroy Comrie. "By providing simpler to understand text on ballot policy measures, we can better ensure that true and full participation in elections is not just the right of the legally well versed or those most proficient in the English language, but of all voters. I want to thank Assemblymember Stefani Zinerman for passing this bill in the Assembly and I thank Governor Kathy Hochul for signing this legislation.”
The governor’s office argues that when dense and complicated language is used to explain proposed amendments or other questions on the ballot, it can confuse voters, resulting in voters either not voting at all or being unsure in their decision. Some voters may may wonder if they actually voted in accordance with their preferences. By requiring the use of plain language on such ballot measures, state Assemblymember Stefani Zinerman says the legislation will help encourage voter participation..
“With signing of this bill by Governor Hochul, The Plain language bill is a major voting right victory,” she said. “It creates equity for the voting public by simplifying legalese and evens the playing field for all New Yorker with language that empowers them to participate in our democracy. I want to thank Common Cause and all the literacy partners for championing this bill as well as my co-sponsors for protecting the cornerstone of our democracy, which is our right to vote."