Empowering Voters. Defending Democracy    JOINDONATE
Empowering Voters. Defending Democracy    JOINDONATE

Issues and Advocacy: June 2022

Sally Robinson, VP for Issues and Advocacy, Sally.s.robinson@gmail.com
Erica Smitka, Deputy Director, Erica@lwvny.org
League Lawsuits to Consolidate State Primaries

As a result of the Court of Appeals landmark decision invalidating Congressional and state Senate maps drawn by the legislature, the legislative lines for Congress and state Senate were drawn by a special master appointed by the trial court and finalized on May 20, 2022. Primaries for Congress and state Senate were moved to August 23rd, but the state Legislature declined to move the statewide and Assembly races from their scheduled June 28th date.  The state League filed two pro bono lawsuits — one in federal court and one in state court — to get the primaries consolidated. The federal case claiming infringement of voters’ First and Fourteenth Amendment rights under the Constitution was decided against the League, but the judge noted in his ruling that the case was “worth bringing and trying.”

The state case was an Article 78 proceeding filed in Supreme Court in Albany to invalidate the Assembly lines that the Court of Appeals said were unconstitutionally drawn but could not be struck down in that case for procedural reasons.  This case was decided against the League, but in a separate and parallel state case an Appellate level judge ordered that the Assembly lines be redrawn for 2024. The rationale was that it was too late for 2022.

2022 Concurrences
The new position on the structure of election administration in New York state sent to local Leagues in January failed to gain the necessary 2/3 approval. Twenty-three Leagues and 11 individuals responded.  However, our current positions fully allow us to support needed reforms to election administration that fall short of eliminating the bipartisan constitutional requirement for “qualifying voters, or of distributing ballots to voters, or of receiving, recording or counting votes at elections.”

At the same time as the election administration study, Local Leagues and members were asked to support a new position allowing individuals in prison the right to vote while still incarcerated. Twenty-three Leagues and 11 individuals responded, and the new position was approved overwhelmingly. The Board adopted the following new position on June 7th.

The League of Women Voters of New York State supports extending the right to vote to all currently incarcerated individuals. 

Legislative Updates
Below is an overview of significant outcomes from the 2022 Legislative session.

The Governor is expected to sign the following three bills the League strongly supported this session.

  • 10-day Voter Registration: Passed in the Senate on May 31 and in the Assembly on the last day of the session. This will reduce the voter registration deadline to the constitutional minimum of ten days. It will be effective on January 1, 2023.
  • Wrong Church: This bill will be effective on January 1, 2023. This bill requires counting affidavit ballots of eligible voters if a voter appears at a polling place in the correct county and assembly district but in the incorrect election district.
  • NYVRA: This marks a monumental achievement for voting rights in the state of New York and will serve as an example to other states and Congress. The John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act of NYS is a state-level Voting Rights Act would help prevent and redress acts of voter suppression, disenfranchisement, or intimidation; require certain localities to clear local changes to voter access that could infringe civil rights with the NYS Attorney General; designate SUNY as a transparent state steward of election data; and improve language assistance. This bill will be effective immediately, although some sections of the bill won’t be active until a year or three years after it’s signed into law. The Governor signed this bill on June 20, 2022 on Medgar Evans College campus and the League was there! Photo below from left: Kate Doran, LWVNYS Elections Specialist; Diane Burrows, LWVNYS Co-President; Cathy Gray, LWVNYS; and Bella Wang, LWVNYC.

Gun Law Reform Package: The Senate and Assembly passed a broad package of 10-gun reform bills.

Reproductive Health Package: The Senate and Assembly passed six reproductive health bills that primarily focus on protecting abortion providers.

Cryptocurrency Mining Moratorium: This bill establishes a moratorium on cryptocurrency mining operations that use proof-of-work authentication methods to validate blockchain transactions. It was passed the Assembly and Senate on June 3, 2022.

Wage Transparency Bill: Requires employers to disclose compensation or range of compensation to applicants and employees. It was passed the Assembly and Senate on June 3, 2022.

The following bills were not passed in this legislative session:

  • Bigger Better Bottle Bill: This bill was referred to Environmental Conservation in the Assembly on May 5th and in the Senate on May 11th. The bill was introduced by Englebright in early May and Senator May signed on to carry the bill for the Senate on May 10th. This bill was not passed this session.
  • NY Packaging Reduction Act (EPR): This bill was introduced by Englebright at the same time he introduced the revised BBBB. It was referred to Environmental Conservation on May 5th. Unfortunately, this bill did not receive a Senate sponsor and did not make it out of committee. Environmental advocates celebrated the fact that an opposing Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) bill from Senator Kaminsky did not advance and expect the fight for EPR to continue in 2023.
  • Court Simplification: These bills were not passed this session but advocates will continue this long-standing effort.
  • Fair and Timely Parole and Elder Parole: These bills were not passed this session.
  • Medical Aid in Dying: This bill was not passed this session in either the Senate or Assembly.
  • Equality Amendment: This constitutional amendment would improve equal rights and protect against discrimination in the NYS constitution. This bill did not pass this session.
  • Voting Rights Constitutional Amendments: Amendments establishing same day voter registration and no-excuses absentee ballots were on the ballot in the fall of 2021, but were not passed by voters. Despite promises to try again, they were not passed in this legislative session and cannot be on the 2024 ballot (absent a special session). Constitutional amendments must pass the Assembly and Senate in two consecutively elected legislatures before they can make it on the ballot.

We will continue to advocate for these bills next session – and plans for success will be developed with coalition partners during the fall.

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