In testimony submitted
today to the New York State Assembly, New York State Bar Association (NYSBA)
President Michael Miller presented the State Bar’s views on access to the
electoral system for New York’s voters. Modernizing voting in order to increase
voter participation is a legislative priority of NYSBA.
“Voting in the United
States is one of our most fundamental rights, ensuring our ability to participate
in the electoral process,” wrote Miller in the submitted testimony. “However, the rate of voter participation in
New York State is frequently ranked among the lowest in the nation. Measures to remove barriers to registration
and voting and to encourage participation, while maintaining the integrity of
the process, could go a long way to improve civic engagement and enhance our
Based on the 2013 report
from NYSBA’s bipartisan Special Committee on Voter Participation, the
association believes that New York State needs to modernize its system for
registering voters, a process that will have a very significant impact on voter
participation by bringing New York’s rates of registration and voter
participation up to levels above 80 percent within a few years.
To modernize the voter
registration system, NYSBA recommends voter registration opportunities be
offered to New Yorkers online, in the mail and whenever they engage in a
transaction with a state agency. NYSBA also recommends the development of a
program for the voluntary pre-registration of 16- and 17-year olds, and calls
for the state to take the steps necessary to permit Election Day or same day
To enhance the voting
process, NYSBA also recommends that a form of in-person early voting be
adopted, making it easier for many voters to get to the polls, preferably one
that extends the time for voting through the weekend before Election Day.
Additional changes that
should be implemented to make the voting process more accommodating for voters include:
improving ballot design to minimize voter confusion; providing ballots in
multiple languages; expanding recruitment and training of polling place workers;
and stiffening penalties to reflect existing penalties for voter registration
Read President Miller’s
full testimony here.
The 2013 Report from the
Special Committee on Voter Participation can be read in full here.
About the New York State Bar Association
The New York State Bar Association is the
largest voluntary state bar association in the nation. Since 1876, the
Association has helped shape the development of law, educated and informed the
legal profession and the public, and championed the rights of New Yorkers
through advocacy and guidance in our communities.
Contact: Brendan Kennedy