NYC Council Enacts New Legislation to Strengthen Voter Registration

Wednesday, Nov 26, 2014

Voting rights coalition applauds City Council, Mayor, and 
Agency Leadership in expansion of NYC's pro-voter law

New York, NY...The New York City Council will enact new legislation today that will strengthen provisions of Local Law 29, also known as the Pro-Voter Law, which was originally passed in 2000 to expand voter registration opportunities at municipal agencies. The legislation, introduced by Council Members Ben Kallos and Jumaane Williams, will strengthen the law's current provisions.

"New Yorkers are seeing the impact that progressive political leadership can have on people's lives," said Steven Carbo, Director of Voting Rights and Democracy Initiatives at the Center for Popular Democracy, which helped to convene the Pro-Voter Coalition. "In expanding access to the vote, Mayor de Blasio. Speaker Mark-Viverito, and Council Members Kallos and Williams are blazing the trail for other cities to follow."

The organizations say that the enforcement and expansion of the City's Pro-Voter Law will be a national model for other cities to replicate fulfilling the government's important role in ensuring that eligible voters are registered. Only 4.3 million of NYC's 8.5 million residents are registered to vote.

"We are encouraged by Council Member Kallos's bill and the potential to increase voter registration in our City," said Jerry Vattamala, Staff Attorney in the Democracy Program of the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund. "We look forward to continuing to work with the City Council to ensure all agencies are in full compliance with the law and that voter registration forms are available in multiple languages for limited English proficient voters."

The agencies covered by the Pro-Voter Law were recently found to be in gross noncompliance with the law as uncovered by a report by the Pro-Voter Law Coalition last month. The coalition of groups led by Center for Popular Democracy, the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, Citizens Union of the City of New York, and the New York Public Interest Research Group/NYPIRG, found that city agencies failed to offer registration information in 84 percent of client interactions, along with non-compliance related to language access and training of agency staff.

"Across much of the country, reactionary legislatures have been passing laws to restrict voters' access to the ballot," said Neal Rosenstein, NYPIRG's Government Reform Coordinator. "Here in New York, instead of fearing new voters, the City Council is embracing them, and we strongly applaud that effort. This measure will help strengthen our representative democracy and the city's diverse voice," he added.

"Council Member Kallos's bill is a good first step toward ensuring that New York City's agencies more effectively register New Yorkers to vote when they are doing business with government agencies," said DeNora Getachew, Campaign Manager and Legislative Counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice. "We look forward to continuing to work with the City Council to bring our City's agency-based voter registration efforts into the 21st century. Using modern technology to register voters would be a big leap forward that would benefit voters and agencies."

"The City Council's actions today to strengthen the city's Pro-Voter Law will ensure that the City of New York follows through to ensure that New Yorkers have more opportunities to register to vote. We applaud the City Council and the Mayor's office for taking these meaningful steps toward strengthening the existing law's requirements that will hopefully result in a higher number of eligible New Yorkers registering to vote or keeping their residence information up-to-date," said Dick Dadey, executive director of Citizens Union of the City of New York.

The Pro-Voter Coalition says that in addition to the new legislation, given sufficient home rule authority, New York City can go even further to increase voter registration by: registering high school students; pre-registering 16 and 17 year olds to vote; allowing for early voting and Same Day Registration; and extending the vote to non-citizens and ex-offenders.

CONTACT:
Margaret Fung (212) 966-5932 x201, mfung@aaldef.org
Alison R. Park (917) 805-0830, apark@populardemocracry.org
Neal Rosenstein (917) 575-4317, nrosenstein@nypirg.org
Chelsea Schuster (561) 843-0197, cschuster@citizensunionfoundation.org
Erik Opsal (646) 292-8356, erik.opsal@nyu.edu.