It’s time to build our democracy back better in NY State

Every vote counts. 

It’s what we told our friends, neighbors, and anyone who would listen throughout the 2020 election season, encouraging them to cast a ballot in order to secure a better future.  

The race for the White House might be over, but there are state and local elections every year that touch our lives. Every vote still counts and it’s up to us to make sure that we ensure every citizen has access to the ballot box. 

Building our democracy back better is not just on Congress or President Biden; our state government plays a critical role in managing our elections and voter access. Unfortunately, there are still far too many racist barriers to voting across the country, including here in New York State.

That’s why we are members of the Let NY Vote coalition alongside Common Cause NY, the Brennan Center for Justice, Citizen Action NY, Demos, NYCLU, VOCAL-NY, and others to fight for democracy reform and voting rights in New York State — and this year, we’re working to permanently re-enfranchise the formerly incarcerated. 

We have our work cut out for us in the Empire State. Although New York leans blue, we still have one of the lowest voter participation rates in the country, and there are still long lines and other unacceptable barriers to the ballot box for far too many New Yorkers.  

For the past two years, the Stand Up America community has advocated for voting rights and campaign finance reforms in New York State. We were one of the loudest grassroots voices calling for passage of automatic voter registration, lower contribution limits, and a small-dollar donor matching program — all of which we won!

In 2021, our priorities in New York include: 

  • finally passing no-excuse absentee voting and same-day voter registration in New York,
  • reforming the Board of Elections, 
  • modernizing our state’s absentee voting rules, 
  • passing a John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act for New York State, and
  • permanently, automatically restoring voting rights to New York citizens returning home from periods of incarceration.

These reforms are vital to avoiding long lines at polling places, reducing voter confusion, eliminating unnecessary barriers to registration, and ensuring everyone has an equal opportunity to cast their ballot.

Our first fight of 2021: permanently and automatically restoring voting rights to New York citizens returning home from periods of incarceration.

Permanently restoring voting rights for 43,000 New Yorkers

Laws disenfranchising people with past convictions can be traced back to the Jim Crow era and were designed to deny voting rights to Black men. Today, these same laws continue to have a disproportionate effect on people of color. Make no mistake: Denying those formerly incarcerated the right to vote is racist voter suppression.

As it stands, the voting rights of nearly 43,000 formerly incarcerated New Yorkers — nearly three-fourths of whom are Black or Latinx — aren’t automatically restored under law, even though they’ve completed their prison sentences. They’ve returned home to raise families, go to work, and pay taxes in New York State but are still dependent on approval from Albany to exercise their right to vote. That means their voting rights could be taken away with the stroke of a pen by a future governor.

Outdated, racist voter suppression laws have no place in New York. We can’t have an elected government that represents all of us when tens of thousands of New Yorkers remain excluded from our elections. 

Ready to join our fight for a stronger democracy? Send an email to your legislators, and tell them it’s time for them to pass S.830 / A.4448 and restore voting rights to 43,000+ New Yorkers.