Early voting part of sweeping plan to reform New York elections

NEW YORK (WABC) -- New York State lawmakers are planning to enact sweeping changes to the state's antiquated voting laws, including establishing early voting and closing an LLC loophole that allows corporations to donate unlimited amounts of money to candidates.

The package of bills was expected to pass the Assembly and Senate in what would be one of the first orders of business for the new Democratic majorities.

The reforms include adding nine days of early voting before the November election, including time to vote on the weekend.

The Senate and Assembly both approved the early voting legislation Monday and the measure now goes to Governor Andrew Cuomo.

The early voting measure passed in the Senate and was sent to the Assembly, where it is expected to be approved.

"Today we begin the journey of bringing New York state from worst to first," said Sen. Zellnor Myrie, D-Brooklyn and the sponsor of the bill in the Senate. "We are one of only 12 states that do not have early voting. ... Early voting will open up our democracy and it's time that we get it done."

The bills passed both chambers easily and with bipartisan support. Opponents - mostly Republicans - questioned the added cost of manning polling places for 10 days and said early voting could create opportunities for double voting or other fraud.

"Is this bill the first step to allowing non-citizens to vote in New York?" asked Sen. Catharine Young, R-Olean, who said she also worries that early voting will be a financial burden for local governments.

Lawmakers will vote to allow 16 and 17-year-olds to preregister to vote. They'll also allow voters who change their address within the state to have their registration automatically change as well.

In addition, they want to consolidate the state's federal and state primaries into one primary day.
Lawmakers will also vote to close a loophole that allows groups to skirt state contribution limits by creating an LLC, which are hard to track and allow unlimited donations to campaigns.

Cuomo supports the legislation and is expected to sign it. The changes would take effect immediately. He also supports declaring Election Day a state holiday.

Other bills call for the creation of same-day voter registration, as well as changes that would make it easier to vote by mail. However, those are Constitutional changes and would require a voter referendum.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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