NEW YORK – Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced a series of aggressive executive actions designed to expand voter registration opportunities for New Yorkers. These steps to help combat low voter participation across New York come amid troubling news that the federal government is considering actions to restrict voter access.
“It is our responsibility to make it as easy as possible for people to vote because that’s what democracy looks like,” Governor Cuomo said. “As the federal government and foreign powers threaten the sanctity of America’s democracy, I am exercising my executive power to expand the availability and opportunity for every New Yorker to register to vote. I am also continuing the fight for legislative reforms, including early voting and same-day registration, that increase access to vote for people throughout this state. Whether you are a student in college or a grandparent living on social security, there should be no artificial barriers to register and take part in the electoral process.”
Executive Order Directs Agencies to Offer Voter Registration
Governor Cuomo signed Executive Order #169, which directs every state agency to make available voter registration forms and to offer assistance in filling them out.
Under current state and federal law, forms are available at the Department of Motor Vehicles and certain social service agencies. This order expands the forms to agencies which interact with the public through professional licensing, recreational activities and other avenues.
Additionally, under this order all agencies are directed to mail or provide electronically voter registration forms to members of the public whose contact information they maintain.
The Executive Order directs that all voter registration activities are to be conducted in a non-partisan fashion.
The Governor also established the State Agency Voter Registration Task Force, which is composed of Alphonso David, the Counsel to the Governor and Jamie Rubin, the Director of State Operations, as well as various agency commissioners. The Task Force will oversee administration of the state agency voter registration program in consultation with the State Board of Elections.
The Task Force will also explore ways to implement the reforms laid out in this Executive Order with the use of electronic signatures and how to set up secure online voting registration systems, similar to the one currently in place at the Department of Motor Vehicles, through additional state agencies.
SUNY and CUNY Investigation of Campus Voter Registration
Governor Cuomo has also ordered SUNY and CUNY to conduct a full investigation of their campus voter registration practices in order to ensure that required steps are being taken to increase voter registration rates among young voters on our State’s public college campuses.
State law requires SUNY and CUNY campuses to provide all students with voter registration forms at the beginning of each school year, as well as in January of each Presidential election year. Federal law has also mandated these institutions provide students an opportunity to register to vote, as well as assistance and filing of registration forms through campus Disabled Student Service offices. Recent data has shown that voter registration rates at many of New York’s public colleges are lagging behind other higher education institutions nationally.
The Governor is directing that SUNY and CUNY conduct this investigation into low registration rates and develop an action plan to educate students of their rights and ensure administrators are meeting their obligations under the law. This probe will ensure that young New Yorkers will receive the voter registration opportunities they deserve.
Promoting DMV Online Registration
Governor Cuomo also directed the Department of Motor Vehicles to send information referencing the DMV’s online voter registration application in all renewal emails reminding New Yorkers to renew their licenses, identification cards, and vehicle registrations. This action will maximize citizens’ awareness of the easy and seamless electronic voter registration application available on DMV’s website. Since the launch of online voter registration in 2012, there have been over 921,922 online voter registration applications, including 430,886 who identified themselves as first-time voters.
The Democracy Project
Earlier this year, Governor Cuomo proposed “The Democracy Project”, a comprehensive package of legislation to further modernize and reform New York’s voting system. This package included enabling early voting across New York, legalizing same-day voter registration, and implementing automatic voter registration.