October 24, 2019
Albany, NY

Governor Cuomo Signs Legislation to Make Election Ballots Easier to Read and Require Boards of Election to Better Inform Voters About the Layout and Content of Ballots

TOP Governor Cuomo Signs Legislation to Make...

S.2300A/A.2682A Enacts "Voter Friendly Ballot Act" to Make Ballots Easier to Read and Use

 

S.3145A/A.112A Makes It a Requirement to Inform Voters When a Ballot Is Two-Sided

 

S.1590/A.163 Requires Boards of Election to Post Sample Ballots Online Prior to an Election

 

Cuomo: "Voting is a fundamental right and there should never be a situation where that right is infringed on just because the ballot isn't clear. These measures will bolster the progress we've made to improve voting access by ensuring ballots clearly lay out the choices and there is no confusion when New Yorkers walk into the voting booth."

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Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today signed a package of bills to make election ballots easier to read and to allow voters to be better informed about the content of ballots. S.2300A/A.2682A enacts the Voter Friendly Ballot Act, which requires boards of election to create a ballot layout that is straightforward and simple to read. S.3145A/A.112A makes it a requirement to better inform voters when a ballot is two-sided. S.1590/A.163 requires boards of election to post sample ballots on their websites prior to each election as soon as the relevant information becomes available.

 

"Voting is a fundamental right and there should never be a situation where that right is infringed on just because the ballot isn't clear," Governor Cuomo said. "These measures will bolster the progress we've made to improve voting access by ensuring ballots clearly lay out the choices and there is no confusion when New Yorkers walk into the voting booth."

  

A key goal of the Governor's 2019 Justice Agenda is to modernize New York's voting laws to increase voter participation. On Saturday, October 26, early voting will go into effect for the first time, making it easier for New York voters to participate in elections without logistical burdens. This reform was part of a package of historic new laws signed by Governor Cuomo in January. These reforms will allow for eight days of early voting before an election, synchronize federal and state primary elections, allow voter preregistration for teenagers, provide voter registration portability within the state, and close the LLC loophole.

 

Last month, Governor Cuomo also signed legislation expediting party enrollment changes to make it easier for voters to participate in the upcoming primary elections. This removed the October 11 deadline and gives voters until February 14 to make changes to party enrollment and still vote in the April presidential and June congressional and state primaries.

 

S.2300A/A.2682A Enacts the Voter Friendly Ballot Act

 

New York election ballots at times have been cluttered and difficult to read. Under the Voter Friendly Ballot Act, election boards are required to create a ballot layout that is straightforward and simple to read, regardless of the number of contests and candidates that must be placed on the ballot in any particular election. This act takes effect immediately and applies to ballots that will be used in elections on or after August 1, 2020.

 

Senator Brian Kavanagh said, "For far too long, New Yorkers exercising their right to vote have had to deal with cluttered and confusing ballots. I drafted the Voter Friendly Ballot Act in 2011 and my Assembly colleagues and I passed it repeatedly. Unfortunately the Senate Republicans refused to join us. This year, the new Senate Majority and the Assembly made this a key part of our successful effort to reform nearly every aspect of our election laws and strengthen our democracy. The Voter Friendly Ballot Act will help eliminate unreasonably small print, clutter, and other confusing and distracting items from ballots. I thank Governor Andrew Cuomo, Election Committee Chairs Zellnor Myrie and Charles Lavine, and the many democracy advocates who supported this legislation and provided input, particularly the Brennan Center, Usability in Civic Life, and Robert Brehm at the Board of Elections."

 

Assembly Member Charles Lavine said, "2019 has been a year where we have seen exponential advances in Election Law. The Voter Friendly Ballot Act allows for a more user-friendly ballot layout including improved readability for those voters in the ADA community. It is also beneficial for any voter that has ever experienced difficulty casting a vote due to the lack of clarity or information overload on a ballot. A ballot that is easier to read allows for better transparency. Therefore, it will provide an informed decision at the ballot box and will encourage future voter participation. I want to thank Governor Cuomo for his leadership and vision on helping to make New York State a leader on voter turnout and for allowing the people of New York State greater ease in exercising their right to vote."

 

S.3145A/A.112A Makes It a Requirement to Inform Voters When a Ballot Is Two-Sided

  

This ensures voters will be better informed when a ballot is two-sided. It is often necessary for boards of election to place ballot questions on the side of the ballot opposite the side where the candidates appear. The bill requires an instruction and an optional arrow on the front side of the ballot telling the voter the ballot is two-sided. This bill takes effect on December 15, 2019.

 

Senator Zellnor Myrie said, "Voting is central to our democracy, and there is nothing that should stand in the way of that fundamental right. Better informing voters of two-sided ballots will protect them from losing their voice in elections due to a simple misunderstanding, and we are appreciative of Governor Cuomo's dedication to ensuring New York voters will be heard."

 

Assembly Member David Buchwald said, "In the past too many New Yorkers have missed their opportunities to vote on important constitutional amendment and proposition questions that are printed on the back of the ballot. Ensuring that voters are better informed about there being two sides of some ballots can only strengthen our democracy. I want to thank Governor Cuomo for signing into law this common sense change to our State's ballot rules."

 

S.1590/A.163 Requires Boards of Election to Post Sample Ballots Online

 

This bill requires boards of election to post sample ballots on their websites prior to each election as soon as the relevant information becomes available, which will allow voters to see the ballot layout and options ahead of time and which can reduce the waiting time at the polls. This act takes effect on January 1, 2021.

 

Senator James Sanders said, "This bill will improve ease of access to information about candidates running for elected office, giving more people the ability to research who would be the best choice. It will also, hopefully, encourage more people to vote overall, since as American citizens we should all be participating in the Democratic process."

 

Assembly Member Linda Rosenthal said, "Providing voters with all the information they need to cast their ballot is central to our democratic process. This legislation will allow all voters to obtain sample ballots ahead of time online, so they can make informed decisions about the candidates and ballot initiatives being proposed, while also requiring that these ballots be made accessible with screen-reading programs, providing New Yorkers with visual impairments the same opportunity to participate."

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