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Miner Advocates for New Voting Legislation

By Staff


Vision local MIner VoterMayor Stephanie Miner recently held a press conference, along with local activists and other elected officials, urging New York state to pass voting rights legislation in order to increase voter presence at the polls, according to a city press release.

The measures include early voting, “no excuse” absentee balloting, and universal voter registration.

“With less than 30 percent eligible voters participating in the 2014 elections, it is clear that something needs to change,” Mayor Miner stated. “New York’s system of voting is archaic, and we need to remove barriers to entry to ensure all New Yorkers can, and will, participate. With common sense steps like early voting, ‘no excuse’ permanent absentee balloting, and universal registration, we could increase voter turnout and engage more citizens in the political process.”

Miner sent a letter to Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, and Senate Majority Coalition Co-Leader Jeffrey Klein, in addition to Assembly member William B. Magnarelli and Senators John A. DeFrancisco and David J. Valesky, on Aug. 13, proposing the new legislation.

She said 33 states currently have some form of early voting, allowing individuals to vote in advance of election day. In addition, 27 states currently permit voters to request “no excuse” permanent absentee voting, without declaring a reason.

But, Miner said, in New York, voters who request absentee ballots are currently required to declare a reason, such as being absent from the county on election day, or having an illness. Voters can only receive absentee ballots on a permanent basis if they can claim permanent illness or disability, she stated.

Two bills in the state legislature, A3874 and S4456, presently address no-excuse absentee voting. Miner said she seeks for these bills to advance, have an agreement between conferences resulting in “same as” legislation, and add an option for permanent status.

Miner also encouraged legislators to enact universal voter registration. The mayor said the measure would automatically enroll each eligible voter, unless they chose to opt-out. This would especially impact first-time and other young voters she said.

“These proposals will help ensure that those who need strong representation in government the most – young people, the underprivileged, poorer communities – will have a strong voice,” Miner stated. “That results in more transparent, accountable, and accessible government for all citizens.”

According to officials, New York State has one of the lowest voter turnout rates in the nation. In the 2014 midterm elections, with three statewide races and 27 congressional elections, only 28.8 percent of eligible voters participated. And, in 2013, the year in which Miner was re-elected, only 23 percent of eligible voters in Syracuse turned out to participate in the election.

Miner’s announcement coincided with the 50th anniversary of the federal Voting Rights Act, which was enacted August 6, 1965.

Read the mayor’s full letter to legislators below:

August 13, 2015

Hon. Carl Heastie                        Hon. John Flanagan                      Hon. Jeffrey Klein

Speaker, NYS Assembly             Majority Leader, NYS Senate      Majority Coalition Co-Leader

NYS State Capitol Building        NYS State Capitol Building         NYS State Capitol Building

Albany, NY 12224                          Albany, NY 12224                        Albany, NY 12224


Hon. William B. Magnarelli       Hon. John A. DeFrancisco       Hon. David J. Valesky

NYS Assembly                                NYS Senate                                         NYS Senate

NYS State Capitol Building          NYS State Capitol Building    NYS State Capitol Building

Albany, NY 12224                           Albany, NY 12224                   Albany, NY 12224


Dear Legislators:

With the current influx of money into our political system, it has become increasingly important to engage citizens in the political process. In the 2014 elections, only 28.8% of New York State’s eligible voting population participated, despite three statewide elections and 27 congressional elections. This rate of voter turnout is the fourth lowest in the nation. Voter participation is key to ensuring citizens are engaged with their governments which is critical to a thriving democracy. I urge you to support legislation that would improve access to voting for all New Yorkers.

As the burden to vote becomes greater for many in the United States—even in New York—access to the ballot and the ease of voting has lagged behind the technological advances we rely upon in almost every other aspect of our life. It has also had a disproportionate impact on those in our society who need strong representation the most. Syracuse has one of the highest poverty rates in the United States, with 35.7% of the population living in poverty. The Syracuse City School District has the fourth highest poverty rate in New York State with more than three quarters of students qualifying for free lunch. Voter participation rates mirror income levels. It is time we pull back the curtain to the voting booth and give each New Yorker easy, fair, and consistent access to their right to vote.

The first step to improving ballot access is to pass A4433/ S3813, a bill would establish early voting twenty days before an election. There are now 33 states in our country that have adopted some form of early voting with the time frame stretching from three to 45 days. When voters have an increased time frame to access the ballot box, they are more inclined to vote and encourage others around them to do the same.

The next step is to enable “no excuse” permanent absentee voting. Currently, there are 27 states that permit this type of absentee voting, allowing eligible voters to request a ballot they can submit by mail without mandating the voter declare a reason for voting absentee. Out of those 27 states, 6 states allow voters to join a permanent absentee list, meaning they will receive an absentee ballot automatically for all future elections. At this time, two bills which would set up a “no excuse” permanent absentee system, A3874 and S4456. It is important to ensure same-as legislation is agreed upon by the conferences and includes a permanent option.

The third step we can take is to support universal voter registration. This allows for every citizen to be automatically registered to vote at age 18 unless they choose to opt out. The law would remove another hurdle that disproportionally affects young voters and the underprivileged. This proposal was recently implemented in Oregon, which then added hundreds of thousands of new voters to its rolls. This would help reinvigorate citizens’ confidence in government and remind each of us that the more people who participate in government, the stronger our state and country become.

These proposals will increase accountability, transparency, and make government more accessible to all New Yorkers. They have been tested across the United States and been proven to increase voter turnout and representation. New York State’s archaic voting rules disproportionally affect the poorest members of our community, individuals of color, and young people—those people who most desperately need the attention of their government. We can no longer exacerbate this problem by perpetuating the status quo. It is time to act and I strongly encourage you to move these proposals forward.



Stephanie A Miner

Mayor of Syracuse