New York senators tackle voting reforms

ALBANY, N.Y. (WCBS 880) — On the first day of the session in Albany on Monday, senators looked to address voting reforms following some big issues last November.

"My mantra as the chair of the Elections Committee has been to take New York from worst to first," said State Sen. Zellnor Myrie.

He tells WCBS 880's Steve Burns that it might surprise a lot of New Yorkers "to know that some states all over the country and even in the south have some more progressive legislation on this front than we have."

To that end, several voting changes that were made on the fly due to the pandemic are closer to becoming permanent, including expanded absentee voting.

"We almost have a culture of absentee voting now.  Something that very few voters utilized in the past has become one of the main ways," Myrie said.

Voters can apply for a ballot earlier and they wouldn't need a pre-approved excuse to get one.

"What we're trying to do is make a permanent change that says you don't need an excuse anymore. If you want to vote absentee all you have to do is opt to do so and apply for a ballot," said Sen. Mike Gianaris.

Another focus is on speeding up the count.

"So many people voted absentee that it took weeks for the votes to be counted. There's a congressional race in upstate New York that still is not resolved," said Gianaris.

One measure allows absentee ballots to start getting tallied before Election Day, which lines New York up with most other states.

Another bill allows for ballot drop boxes, something voters across the river in New Jersey enjoyed.

"Things like that that are going to make the changes we've already made that much more user friendly," Gianaris said.

He said Gov. Andrew Cuomo agrees in principle with what the Senate has passed.