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32BJ and others back mayor’s online voter registration plan

Stephon Johnson | 12/21/2017, midnight
New legislation signed by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio would make voter registration for New Yorkers easier.
Polling station voters sign Nia Sanders

New legislation signed by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio would make voter registration for New Yorkers easier.

Intro 508-A, sponsored by New York City Council Member Ben Kallos, will allow the city to create an online portal and mobile app to which voters can submit registration information or simply update registrations. The legislation also requires the Campaign Finance Board to provide an electronic signature mechanism for voters and allow the agency to use signatures already provided by other agencies if needed.

One union leader praised the mayor for this legislation.

“We applaud the mayor for signing this bill, which will make it easier to register to vote,” said 32BJ President Hector Figueroa in a statement. “Our democracy works better when everyone can participate. With Republicans attacks on working people and voting rights across the country, we need to fight to enfranchise all voters. We strongly support the implementation of this bill and other ways to ensure more New Yorkers can register and vote.”

“We want the biggest, most energetic electorate, we want all views represented,” said de Blasio during a bill signing ceremony Saturday. “We want people to feel ownership in their city, in their state. And that starts with voting.”

Under Intro 508-A, after the voter submits the information online, the CFB would print the information on a voter registration form with an electronic signature, and the New York City Board of Elections gets the printed voter registration form. The bill would take effect in 18 months.

Before this bill, if you lived in New York State, you could only register to vote online if you had a DMV-issued ID. That requirement adversely affected many people in New York City, who don’t drive or own a car.

De Blasio stated that this bill is part of his ongoing plan to make voting as painless as possible for New Yorkers. He’s pushed for automatic voter registration, same-day registration and early voting. The mayor said he also wants to get more young people involved in the voting process.

“Look at the elections in Virginia, look at the election in Alabama, just look how much the youth vote played a crucial, crucial role,” de Blasio said.

Alan Rothstein, Interim Executive Director of Citizen Union, said he wants the BOE to work right away to implement this legislation.

“Citizens Union has long maintained that electronic signatures are valid on voter registration forms, a view confirmed by the attorney general, and we commend the mayor and City Council for adopting this approach in an effective way to stimulate greater voter participation,” stated Rothstein. “We urge the New York City Board of Elections to act quickly to help implement the law.”