New York enacted landmark suffrage legislation this week that supporters say is the strongest in the nation.
In response to dwindling federal protections and a wave of voting restrictions in states across the country, Democratic Governor Kathy Hochul signed into law the measure on the day the state observed June 16, the holiday commemorating the end of the slavery in the United States.
“Our democracy only works if everyone who is eligible can participate and voters’ rights are respected,” she said at the signing ceremony at Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn, named after the civil rights activist assassinated in 1963.
The provisions of the legislation aim to prohibit racial or linguistic discrimination against voters. The measures include one that requires communities to seek state approval for any changes affecting ballot access that could harm minority voters.
The law also provides new language assistance for voting and protects against voter intimidation at the polls. Additionally, the state has created a centralized voter and demographics data center that lawmakers hope to use to create fairer access to the ballot.
Suffrage advocates hailed the measure, saying it provides more comprehensive protections for voters of color than any other state.
“At a time of crisis for voting rights in the United States, New York has emerged as a national leader,” said Sean Morales-Doyle, acting director of the voting rights program at New York’s Brennan Center for Justice. University School of Law. , in a report. “For too long, New Yorkers have faced discriminatory voting rules and practices. No more.”
The Democratic-backed bill passed along party lines. While no Republicans spoke against the bill during the indoor debates, the New York State Conservative Party said in a memo that the measure was “unmanageable, extremely costly and unnecessary.” .
The New York law is named after former U.S. Representative John Lewis, a Georgia Democrat and civil rights leader who died in 2020. The law came in response to the U.S. Supreme Court gutting key provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 over the past decade. and Congress failed to pass voting rights protections last year, said Democratic Sen. Zellnor Myrie, the legislation’s lead sponsor.
“We are fighting against attacks on our democracy,” Myrie said at the bill signing ceremony. “It’s not a southern problem. This is not a Republican-controlled state problem. It’s an American problem, and that includes New York State.