Democrats Lose High Ground On Voting Policy With Unneeded Bills Like A.4009

Bills like A.4009, which passed the state Assembly recently, are where legislative Democrats in New York lose the high ground over voting policy.

The bill requires local jails to provide a voter registration form and voting information when they are released. Assemblyman Eddie Gibbs, D-New York City, and Assemblyman Andrew Goodell, R-Jamestown, agreed during floor debate that no one loses their right to vote if they are charged and convicted of a misdemeanor crime and that those sentenced to time in a local jail don’t lose their voting rights. We would take it a step further that anyone convicted of a misdemeanor who is concerned they can’t vote can clear up any confusion with a simple phone call to a local Board of Elections or a Google search. Voters should be able to take that step to preserve a right they hold so dear.

But if, as Gibbs says, there is confusion for those released from a county jail whether or not they can vote, the state should go a step further and require voter registration forms and voter information be given whenever someone interacts with a state or county agency.

“I would also point out that what is unique about this bill is it only explains voting rights to those who have been arrested and convicted of a misdemeanor but doesn’t provide for any voting notification or rights to those who buy a new home and relocated and those law abiding taxpaying residents who have to re-register because they have a new residence,” Goodell said. “And we don’t require a notification of your right to vote when you file your income taxes or apply for a permit or engage in a business activity — only for those who are being released having been convicted of a misdeameanor. And so I don’t think it’s necessary but I certainly appreciate the general perspective of encouraging voting by everybody.”

Democrats introduced legislation this week to expand voting by mail while creating a workaround that would also basically allow no-excuse absentee voting. We agree with their goal of increasing voter participation given that turnout in most elections — particularly local ones — is pathetically low. But Democrats would do well, then, to take Goodell up on his idea and drastically expand opportunities for everyone to have a voter registration form waved in front of their face.


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