At a rare summer session this week, state lawmakers in both the State Senate and State Assembly have reached a deal on an automatic voter registration bill.
The deal could boost the state’s voter rolls by hundreds of thousands of people through what's commonly known as a "motor-voter" bill.
“You show up to the DMV and they ask you what the color of your eyes are, they will ask you whether or not you’d be interested in not registering to vote,” said Assemblywoman Latrice Walker, a Democrat representing Brooklyn. “So, you will be registered unless you say you are not eligible or not interested in it.”
Lawmakers are also expected to repeal a blanket immunity granted to hospitals, nursing homes and other institutions treating people with COVID-19.
The broad immunity was quietly approved as part of the budget in early April. The repeal is not retroactive, and will only apply to facilities going forward.
“Under this repeal, people can bring a lawsuit to the hospitals, to the institutions, nursing home executives, people who are not directly involved in treating and diagnosing COVID19,” said Assemblyman Ron Kim, a Democrat representing Queens.
Lawmakers are also looking to change the process for redistricting. Every ten years, the boundary lines for state senate and assembly districts are redrawn following the census. Ten years ago, Republicans were in charge of the state senate, but now Democrats are in control of the process.
“We have a city in upstate New York, Rochester, that has the population of about two-thirds of a senate district, yet they have three senators. Why is that?” asked State Senator Michael Gianaris. “It’s because Republicans chopped up thecity many different ways to keep Democrats from getting elected there. So, we are changing a lot of standards through which the gerrymandering took place and we will create a much fairer process.”
Critics say the redistricting process should be independent and non-partisan, but the current proposal is better than the process was last time around.
“The current proposal clarifies and simplifies redistricting. And it provides a uniform set of voting rules for the commission no matter who is in political power,” said Susan Lerner, who works for Common Cause NY.
Legislators are also expected to approve absentee voting for the general election, much like New York had for the June primary. The idea is to reduce the number of people voting in-person during the pandemic, but this time around lawmakers are looking to allow more ballots to be counted.