Well what do you know.
Turns out New Yorkers aren’t a bunch of lazy, disinterested lumps of apathy after all.
All they needed to get them to vote was a smoother road to the ballot box.
And the good news is, it’s about to get even smoother, if state lawmakers and the governor jump on board.
While presidential elections always brig out voters in big numbers, state residents have generally demonstrated a stubborn lack of inertia when it comes to school budgets and school board votes, special election referendums and local and state races.
It’s odd, because these elections generally have the most direct impact on citizens’ lives. Yet when it comes time to vote, many New Yorkers stay home.
But it turns out, it can’t all be attributed to apathy or disillusionment.
When voters last year were given greater opportunities to vote, through expanded access to absentee balloting, ease of registration and more opportunities to vote early instead of on Election Day, they jumped at it.
It wasn’t just turnout in the presidential election that jumped, but turnout in other elections like school budget votes. And that was at a time when voters were discouraged from leaving their houses due to covid.
If lawmakers can make it even easier to vote, while ensuring a secure and fair election system, they should do it.
A package of bills offered by Senate Democrats this week does just that.
Legislation offered by the Senate majority will improve on the popularity of absentee voting by permanently authorizing absentee drop-off locations and boxes so voters don’t have to rely on the postal service, improve tracking of absentee ballots to ensure every voter’s vote is counted, permanently allow voters to apply for absentee ballots online, permanently allow ballots to be counted if they’re postmarked by Election Day, allow voters to obtain absentee ballots earlier than the current law allows so voters have more time to vote and return ballots, and make permanent no-excuse absentee voting (through a constitutional amendment) so many more voters will be eligible to vote from home.
All of those bills are necessary to solidify New York’s absentee voting system and ensure as many people who want the convenience of voting by mail can do so.
None of these ideas are new. And it’s a shame New York has dragged its feet for so long. It took a pandemic that forced people into isolation to get lawmakers to pass these reasonable reforms.
Whatever the reason, New Yorkers will benefit from these changes, and state lawmakers need to put them in place as soon as possible so residents can quickly take advantage of them.