Gov. Kathy Hochul on Wednesday signed a package of bills meant to expand voting access across the Empire State — allowing all registered voters to vote early using a mail-in-ballot.
Along with expanding the ability to cast a ballot by mail during the weeklong early voting period, the new laws will help streamline the process of requesting a ballot from the Board of Elections, and create a system to track the status of their votes.
The laws also allow for same-day registration, beginning on the first day of early voting.
The change comes after the state implemented temporary changes for elections during the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead of the cumbersome process to request an absentee ballot, all voters could simply get a “no-excuse” ballot from the local BOE office, and mail in their votes or drop them outside a polling station.
While many of those temporary changes have sunset, the new package of legislation will enshrine the easier vote-by-mail process permanently.
Hochul held a bill-signing ceremony at New York Law School on Wednesday morning to celebrate the new laws, dubbed the “New York Early Mail Voter Act.”
“It’s a great day. It’s a great day to remind the world of what New York is all about, and who we are as a people,” Hochul said. “This opportunity to sign a series of bills that showcases our commitment to one basic principle: Democracy.”
The legislation passed the state legislature’s upper chamber in June by a 41-21 margin, and cleared the Assembly with large majorities of Democratic legislators supporting the measures.
All elections after Jan. 1 of 2024 will feature the “no-excuse” mail voting system.
Hochul hailed the new laws as a historic expansion of voting rights in the state.
“The right to vote is so sacrosanct that throughout the history of this nation—this is still a young nation—thousands of people have put on uniforms to defend that right,” Hochul said. “Blood has been shed on battlefields to protect our right to vote in our democracy, just like blood has been shed in our streets during marches and protests as ordinary American stood up to protect that right.”
“So, never ever take for granted the ability that we have to walk in and vote for our leaders.”