STATEMENT: New York Voting Rights Coalition Asks State Senate to Reject Excessive Voter Verification Measures

Release Date: 
June 1, 2005

New York, N.Y. — Today, a coalition of New York State voting rights and civics organizations announced a press conference for Thursday, June 2, to urge a legislative conference committee in Albany to reject dangerous measures that would restrict voter access to the polls. All mayoral candidates have been invited to speak in support of New York City voters. Thus far, Gifford Miller has confirmed his attendance.

A joint Assembly-Senate conference committee has been attempting to iron out compromises on state implementation of new federal election requirements since March 2003. Senate representatives are pressing for adoption of the vague and alarming requirements for voter registration and verification set out in S.1810, passed by that chamber on February 15, 2005. The bill stipulates that a voter registration application cannot be processed or approved unless it includes New York state driver's license, non-driver identification card or social security numbers that can be positively matched with state and federal records. Flaws in the databases and human error are known to produce disfranchising mismatches.

The Senate conferees are also pressing for voter identification requirements that would place undue burdens on urban, low-income, and voters of color, as well as new citizens and young voters who are less likely to have the required ID. These Senate positions create unnecessary barriers that could disfranchise thousands of New Yorkers.

The coalition urges New York City's elected representatives to reject so-called "reforms" that will block ballot access for all eligible voters. The following provisions should instead be added to the conference committee proposals currently under consideration:

* Any failure by the state to verify eligibility should not result in penalizing the voter by voiding the registration and disallowing her to vote.
* Specific guidelines should be set for voter identification at the polls. Legislation requiring identification upon voting should include a broad and inclusive list of identification documents.
* As the Senate acts to meet HAVA deadlines, any related state legislation should ensure that HAVA funds are distributed equitably and according to the total number of registered voters in each county.

The New York State Citizens' Coalition on HAVA Implementation is an ad hoc coalition that includes the Asian American Legal Defense & Education Fund (AALDEF), the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, Citizens Union of the City of New York, Common Cause/NY, Demos: A Network for Ideas & Action, Disabilities Network of New York City, Eastern Paralyzed Veterans Association, New York Immigration Coalition, New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, the New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG), People for the American Way, and several other organizations.

For more information on election reform in New York State, please visit www.nypirg.org/goodgov/hava or call Neal Rosenstein at (917) 575-4317

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