Capitol Watch: Lawmakers to review voting problems
ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — In New York state political news, lawmakers plan to take a closer look at the problems reported on Election Day with an eye toward improving the voter experience.
Meanwhile, supporters of a bill intended to make it easier for molestation victims to get justice are cheering Tuesday’s results.
Here’s a look at stories making news:
VOTING PROBLEMS: There were widespread reports of malfunctioning ballot scanners and long lines at polling places Tuesday, prompting calls for lawmakers to update the state’s antiquated election and voting laws. Now it’s up to lawmakers to review the complaints and figure out what to do.
The Assembly’s Standing Committee on Election Law will hold a public hearing Thursday in Manhattan to review Election Day operations and possible ways to improve the voting experience.
Advance voting will likely be at the top of that list. New York is now one of a minority of states that don’t allow voters to cast an early ballot, either in person or through the mail.
Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said his chamber is determined to take action this year to overhaul the state’s election rules, many of which have been largely unchanged for decades.
“We have legislation ready to ensure every eligible voter has ample opportunity to vote, including the establishment of an early voting period and no-excuse absentee voting,” Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said Wednesday in a statement. “We also plan to pass legislation to combine federal and state primaries, bringing New York State in compliance with federal law. We want to modernize and streamline voter registration by establishing an online registration process.”
Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, also listed voting reform as one of his priorities for the year.
Other proposed changes intended to make it easier to vote include overhauling the state’s onerous registration deadlines, which can force people to affiliate with a party in some cases more than a year before the primary to cast a ballot.
“It is so hard to vote in this state,” Cuomo said on the radio Thursday. “It is a joke. ... Early voting! Make it easier.”
CHILD VICTIMS ACT: For years the Republican leaders of the state Senate have blocked a bill intended to make it easier for molestation victims to sue their abusers. Now, backers of that proposal are confident the bill could soon pass after Democrats flipped the chamber.
“It is a new day for survivors of child sexual abuse in New York State,” read a joint statement from a broad coalition of survivors and advocacy organizations. “For the first time, we have a partner in the state Senate that can and will commit to passing the Child Victims Act. ... We anticipate swift action.”
The statement was signed by groups including Safe Horizon, the Stop Abuse Campaign, the Foundation for Survivors of Abuse, NY Loves Kids and the New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children.
The legislation, known as the Child Victims Act, would extend the criminal and civil statutes of limitation for molestation going forward, and create a one-year window allowing victims to sue over abuse claims now barred by the statute of limitations. The Catholic Church has long opposed the last provision, arguing that allowing civil suits over decades-old incidents could bankrupt any large institution that deals with children.
Republicans have long blocked the bill from getting a vote and suggested alternative bills that come without the look-back window, a deal-breaker for many supporters.
UPCOMING: Wednesday: Standing Committee on Aging holds a public hearing in Albany focused on independent living and the programs and services dedicated to supporting seniors who age in place.
Also Wednesday: Three Assembly committees focused on alcohol and drug abuse, health and corrections will hold a joint public hearing on medication-assisted treatment programs for addicts within the state’s correctional system. The meeting will be held in Manhattan.
Friday: Assembly Committee on Environmental Conservation talks recycling at a hearing in Albany.