Speaker Silver Calls For Early Voting in New York

Dec 28, 2012

One of the state's legislative leaders proposed Thursday to change New York laws to institute early voting and also require disclosure of independent political spending that's now shielded from public view. Capital Region Bureau Chief Dave Lucas.

Credit AP File Photo

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, a Manhattan Democrat, submitted the two bills for 2013 along with dozens of co-sponsors. He noted that New York voter participation was only an estimated 46 percent in November, higher than the turnout in only two other states.

The legislation would let voters cast ballots at designated locations starting 14 days before a general election and seven days before a primary or special election. SUNY New Paltz Political Science Professor Gerald Benjamin says the bill represents "an interesting initiative".

Silver didn’t offer an estimate of how many more voters might turn out with an option of voting on alternative days, but said it’s been done successfully in several other states in increasing turnout and would also shorten Election Day lines at polling places.

Under the legislation, the boards of elections for each county and New York City would have to designate at least five polling places for early voting 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. during the advance periods, including Saturdays and Sundays, which would be counted at the close of the polls on Election Day and included in that night’s tallies.

Albany County Democratic Elections Commissioner Matt Clyne isn't keen on Silver's idea. He says the cost of staffing the polling places make the legislation less than desirable.

Speaker Silver's second bill  would apply to “express advocacy” - the same fundraising and spending disclosures now required of candidates and their campaign committees. He said it's important for voters to know who's behind campaign messages, who's targeting them and what their agendas are.

According to the Assembly Leader, the current structure allows corporations, industry groups, wealthy activists, unions and special interests to participate in campaigns through unlimited spending provided they identify themselves as “issue advocates” and avoid certain words.

WAMC reached out to several unions, The Cuomo administration, American Bridge Pac and the Senate Republican Conference none would immediately comment on the proposals.