Press Releases

New York Senate Passes Landmark Voting Rights Legislation

MAY 31, 2022

Monica Garcia, [email protected]

Civil Rights Organizations Urge Assembly to Act, Finalize Best-in-Nation Voting Rights Reforms

ALBANY, NY — As the New York legislature kicks off its final week, civil and voting rights groups applaud lawmakers in the NY Senate for voting to approve the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act of New York (NYVRA), and call for final passage from the Assembly before the session ends June 2nd.

With federal voting rights legislation stalled in the U.S. Senate, and many states moving to restrict voting since the 2020 election, these groups say it is imperative for states like New York to step up to root out discrimination and restore vital protections that the Voting Rights Act of 1965 ensured before the Supreme Court’s Shelby v Holder decision in 2013.  More than 70 organizations recently sent a letter to Governor Hochul, Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins, and Speaker Heastie urging the swift passage of the NYVRA before the end of the legislative session.

The NYVRA’s critical protections include:

  • Launching a “preclearance” program that requires local governments with records of discrimination to prove that proposed voting changes will not harm voters of color before they can go into effect.
  • Providing new legal tools to fight discriminatory voting provisions in court.
  • Expanding language assistance for voters with limited English proficiency.
  • Creating strong protections against voter intimidation, deception, or obstruction.
  • Instructing state judges to interpret election laws in a pro-voter way whenever possible, so that close questions of legal interpretation are resolved in favor of the rights of qualified voters.
  • Establishing, through companion legislation, a central hub for election data and demographic information that will empower officials and community members to ensure accessible elections. 

Members of the coalition offered the quotes below in support of passage:

“As other states pass bill after bill to suppress the vote, New York’s Senate has taken a stand against the discriminatory practices that continue to undermine the voting rights of New Yorkers, especially voters of color—from long lines to inconvenient polling locations and failures to provide language assistance,” said Reggie Thedford, Deputy Political Director for Stand Up America. “Our state representatives must pass the New York Voting Rights Act before the end of the legislative session to protect the voices of all New York voters and make our state a model for voting protections across the country.” 

“The John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act of New York represents hope for New Yorkers of color who are entitled to an equal opportunity to hold local government officials accountable at the ballot box,” said L. Joy Williams, President of Brooklyn NAACP and Legislative Director for the NAACP New York State Conference of Branches. “I commend the steadfast leadership of Senator Zellnor Myrie and Assemblymember Latrice Walker along with Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins and Speaker Carl Heastie in making sure New York State leads the country by passing the strongest and most comprehensive state voting rights act to date, with the nation’s first state pre clearance program. This historic vote comes at a time when leadership from elected officials on voting rights is desperately needed and provides a roadmap for our colleagues in other states fighting for voting rights that change is possible.”

“Strong Senate leadership has pushed our state a big step closer to becoming the truly inclusive, multiracial democracy all New Yorkers deserve,” said Perry Grossman, supervising attorney at the NYCLU. “Now it’s time for the Assembly to finish the job, and push the NYVRA across the finish line before the session ends this Thursday.”

“We commend Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Senator Zellnor Myrie for their leadership in shepherding the bill through the Senate,” said Janai Nelson, President and Director-Counsel of the Legal Defense Fund. “As the late John Lewis himself once said, the right to vote is ‘almost sacred.’ That profound truth, as well as the current national context in which the right to vote is under siege, is why it is imperative that the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act of New York become law.”

To speak with a Stand Up America spokesperson, please contact [email protected].

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About Stand Up America
Stand Up America is a progressive advocacy organization with over two million community members across the country. Stand Up America members in New York have driven more than 3,800 constituent calls and emails to New York lawmakers in support of the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act of New York.