Unprecedented complaints about New York’s presidential primary show the need for big changes to state voting rules, state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said Tuesday, before announcing proposals to authorize automatic voter registration and join most other states in allowing early voting.
Schneiderman’s office received 1,500 complaints about the April primary, about 10 times more than in any previous election. Many of the calls concerned mistakes in registration rolls or a deadline that required voters seeking to change their party affiliation to do so more than six months before the primary.
The state’s outdated and overly burdensome rules prevented thousands of New Yorkers from casting a ballot, Schneiderman said, including two of President-elect Donald Trump’s children, who missed the party affiliation deadline, preventing them from voting for their father.
“New York has one of the most ridiculous change-of-registration rules in the United States of America,” he said, adding that the rules contribute to the state having some of the lowest voter participation rates in the nation. “This is totally unacceptable, and it’s something we can and something we will change.”
The Democratic attorney general launched a review of state voting laws following the rash of complaints. His office has an ongoing investigation into a purge that took more than 120,000 voters off the rolls in Brooklyn, a move that angered many supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders, who lost the Democratic presidential primary to Hillary Clinton.
Schneiderman’s proposed bill includes allowing residents to vote up to two weeks before an election at their local board of elections. He also wants to authorize online registration and allow citizens to be automatically registered when they submit information to a state agency.
To reduce voter confusion and fatigue, Schneiderman is also calling for the consolidation of primaries instead of the separate primaries now held for congressional, legislative and presidential races.
Many of the proposals announced Tuesday have been debated for years to no avail in the Legislature. Schneiderman said some of the current restrictions have the effect of dampening turnout, which could benefit incumbents.
Good-government groups and voter advocacy organizations hailed the proposals Tuesday. Blair Horner, executive director of the New York Public Interest Research Group, said the state’s current restrictions amount to “institutional voter suppression.”