By MARINA VILLENEUVE – Associated Press
ALBANY, NY (AP) — New York would make it easier to prosecute discriminatory voting policies and require localities with a history of civil rights abuses to get approval before changing election rules, under legislation passed Thursday by the Assembly and the Senate controlled by the Democrats.
A spokeswoman for Governor Kathy Hochul, a Democrat, said she would review the legislation. This year, Hochul called for this type of voting rights law at the state level to protect voters of different races and languages.
The New York bill follows the U.S. Senate’s failure in January to pass voting legislation that would have allowed the Justice Department to intervene in states with a history of election inference.
Under the bill, some zones, school boards, or local election commissions would no longer be able to make changes — such as removing people from voter rolls, reducing voting hours, or reducing the number of polling places — without approval from the state attorney general’s office or the courts.
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Communities where minority New Yorkers have disproportionately high arrest rates might also need permission to change election rules.
The legislation would make it easier to prosecute voter intimidation and suppression by establishing an expedited process for New Yorkers or the Attorney General to sue for voting violations, including new prohibitions on intimidation, deception and obstruction of voters. voters.
Courts could offer solutions for voter suppression ranging from moving election dates to adding extra voting hours or days.
Democrats and civil rights leaders said Republican-led states are passing laws making it harder for Black Americans and others to vote by consolidating polling places, requiring some types of identification and ordering others changes.
Parts of New York City once had to seek federal approval to change election and election laws under a key part of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled. invalidated in 2013.
About a century ago, New York State passed laws requiring English literacy tests to vote and moved election day to Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath.
The bill’s sponsors, Senator Zellnor Myrie and Assemblywoman Latrice Walker, both New York Democrats, said the state’s voting record had improved but needed still work.
Proponents cited U.S. Census data that shows voter registration and turnout rates are lower for black and Hispanic New Yorkers than for non-Hispanic white residents.
In recent decades, New York has also faced criticism over its language assistance programs for minority voters and allegations of gerrymandering of political districts to reduce the power of minority communities.
“Since the courts have weakened the federal Voting Rights Act and without congressional action to strengthen it, we have seen a wave of laws passed across this country designed to stifle the voting power of minority voters,” said Walker. “This legislation sends the message that here in New York, your right to vote is protected.”
The New York legislation is similar to a 2021 law in Virginia that allows voters and the attorney general to sue for voter suppression and requires local election officials to seek public comment or prior prosecutorial approval. general for changes to the voting policy.
Oregon lawmakers failed to pass a bill this year that would have required some local communities to seek approval to change election law.
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