Hochul signs legislation to ensure eligible votes are counted

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul
In this image taken from video, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul speaks about the state budget during a news conference, Thursday, April 7, 2022, in Albany, N.Y.
Office of the Governor of New York via AP

Gov. Kathy Hochul on Tuesday signed legislation to protect New Yorkers’ right to vote and improve the voting process.

Legislation (S.284C/A.642C) requires the counting and canvassing of affidavit ballots cast by eligible voters who appear at the wrong polling place, as long as they are voting in the correct county and assembly district.

The new law strengthens protections for New Yorkers’ right to vote and have their ballots counted in races that they are entitled to vote in while also encouraging voter participation in the electoral process.

“Access to the ballot box shouldn’t be held up by complicated and unclear voting processes,” Hochul said. “New York continues to lead the nation in taking critical steps forward to protect the fundamental right to vote. My administration is committed to empowering voters and improving the state’s electoral process, which has disenfranchised too many New Yorkers for too long.”

Legislation (S.284C/A.642C) protects New Yorkers’ fundamental right to vote and encourages participation in the electoral process by requiring the counting and canvassing of affidavit ballots when cast by an eligible voter who appears at the wrong polling place, as long as the individual is voting in the correct county and assembly district.

Voters may inadvertently arrive at the wrong polling place on Election Day. This may happen when recent changes have been made to their polling place location or when they have been provided incorrect information about how and where to vote, among other reasons.

Currently, a voter who casts a ballot in the wrong polling place but in the correct county and assembly district will have their entire ballot invalidated, including their votes in districtwide, statewide, and federal contests that all eligible voters are allowed to participate in.

The governor said this new law will allow such ballots to be counted and canvassed in races that eligible New Yorkers are entitled to vote in.

State Senator Zellnor Myrie, who represents the 20th Senate District in Brooklyn, said, “Over the past four years, New York has done more than any other state to reduce barriers for voters and ensure everyone’s voice can be heard in our democracy.

“This new law builds on that progress by finding more reasons to count valid votes and fewer reasons to disqualify them,” added Myrie, whose grandmother hails from Jamaica. “I’m grateful to Gov. Hochul for signing this legislation, to

Assemblymember Bobby Carroll, and to the advocates who worked tirelessly to make this bill a reality.”

Assemblymember Robert C. Carroll said, “I commend the Governor for signing A.642-B/S.284-C, my bill to ensure that all eligible voters who cast affidavit ballots in the correct county and assembly district are counted in the races for which they are entitled to vote, whether the ballot is cast at the voter’s assigned poll site or not.

“With our democracy under attack, it is essential that in New York does everything in its power to ensure eligible voters ballots are counted,” he added. “With this legislation, New York will no longer invalidate otherwise valid ballots because a voter went to the incorrect polling place in their home county and assembly district. This critical voting reform will help ensure that the rights of thousands of voters are protected.”

Hochul said the measure builds on her efforts to empower New York State voters.

In June, she signed the landmark John. R. Lewis Voting Rights Act, which expands voter protections for members of racial, ethnic, and language-minority groups.

The governor also signed legislation to safeguard absentee ballots, ensuring that ballots are not voided due to stray marks or writing as long as the express intent of the voter is unambiguous.

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