NYSECA Democratic Caucus Top Legislative Priorities for the remainder of the 2023 Session

(Today I sent a letter to Governor Hochul, Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins, and Speaker Heastie as they prepare for the final month of the NYS legislative session. For transparency’s sake I am posting it here. Read our full list of legislative priorities and get access to our Memorandums of Support here.)

Governor Kathy Hochul

Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins

Speaker Carl E. Heastie

NYS Capitol Building

State St. and Washington Ave.

Albany, NY 12224

May 8, 2023

RE:  NYSECA Democratic Caucus supported legislation for the end of the legislative session.

Dear Governor Hochul, Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins, and Speaker Heastie,

Congratulations on surviving another budget season. I wanted to take a moment to thank you for the investments that you made in our Democracy through the New York State Budget. Your historic investments include over $20 million for the New York State Board of Elections ($18,841,000 for Operations and #5,408,000 for Enforcement), $19 million for County Board of Elections ($4,000,00 in Postage Reimbursement and $15,000,000 in Tech Upgrades), and $40 million for Public Campaign Finance Boards ($14,54800 in Operations and $25,000,000) in general funding. These investments will help us administer the 2023 elections and set us up for success in 2024. Thank you for showing New York’s strong commitment to our Democracy.

We have just a little over a month left in the 2023 legislative session and now our attention turns to desperately needed legislation that will also improve our Democracy. I have attached the Democratic Caucus of NYS Elections Commissioner Association Legislative priorities for 2023. We have also included a list of bills brought to us by members for our support. I want to draw attention to six different bills that are our top priorities. All six of our top priorities have bi-partisan backing of the NYS Elections Commissioner Association.

Top Priorities of the NYSECA Democratic Caucus

S644/A1258 Minimum Staffing Bill (Already Passed NY Senate)

This bill clarifies what a minimum staffing allocation is for the County Board of Elections. As we have added more responsibilities. New York has a vested interest in ensuring the reforms passed by the legislature can be conducted by the County Board of Elections.  This bill will increase staffing to approximately 20 Boards of Elections as we prepare for the 2024 Presidential Elections. This staffing will ensure that Boards will not be overwhelmed by the added registration requirements that are coming online this year, such as 10-day constitutional minimum, automatic, and online voter registration. This bill will ensure that voters in all counties have the bare minimum level of service from their county boards of elections while also ensuring that counties have the proper staff for the increase in voter registration expected with online and automatic voter registration coming this year.

S611/A919 Mandate Full-Time Elections Commissioners Statewide (Already passed NY Senate)

We have a full-time political calendar in New York State. We have Village Elections in March and June, School Board Elections in May, Primary elections in June, Town Caucuses, Inspector Training and Judicial conventions during the summer, and of course the General Election in November. Sixteen counties outside New York City still have part time commissioners. We have a full-time calendar in New York State, we need full-time commissioners.

A4777 (Awaiting Senate Bill #) Move Commissioner terms to 4-year statewide.

We believe Elections Commissioners should be evaluated on the 4-year cycle of elections we have in New York. The Presidential and Gubernatorial election years are separated by two local years. Having a four-year cycle will allow election commissioners to navigate the challenges of each year before having to stand for re-appointment. It will also allow elections commissioners to make proper decisions based on Election Law, precedent, and proper equity in their Board decisions without having the shadow of a 2-year term hanging over their employment.

S5537A (Awaiting Assembly Bill #) Allowing Vote Centers on Election Day.

New York currently authorizes and encourages vote centers for Early Voting. This legislation will allow the county boards with the resources and desire to do so to use voting centers for primary and general election days. Counties wishing to participate will submit a plan to the NYS Board of Elections to ensure adequate staffing and equipment. This is a permissive bill and will allow counties ready to move to a vote center model permission to do so.

S2024/A4294 Mandating Non-student attendance day on Election Day and Primary Day 

It has become increasingly hard for Boards of Elections to find HAVA acceptable buildings for use as polling places. Many schools in urban, suburban, and rural are the only acceptable buildings for voters to gather in. The COVID pandemic has exacerbated this problem, as traditional polling places such as churches and nursing homes have either closed or refused to be polling places. This is an artful way to ensure the public has adequate polling places and protect students without affecting instructional days.

S1014/A1259 Reducing threshold for the Mandatory Hand Count

It is the experience of our county boards that only the closest of races where voter intent on the ballot comes into play can result in a lead change. We believe allowing for alternative scans on races under .5% but over .25% is sufficient to determine the machine counts are correct. This will allow Boards of Elections to expend their limited resources on the races that are truly deserving of the hand count, those races that are .25% or less separating the vote leader and those trailing.

I have attached our support memos on all these bills to this email. I am available to meet with you and your staff about these priorities. I will be traveling to Albany May 16th, 23, and 31st if you would like to arrange in-person meetings. I can also be available for zoom and conference calls on other days. Thank you for all you have done for New York Voters. I look forward to collaborating with you in the close of the 2023 session as well as in the years to come.


Dustin Czarny

Democratic Caucus Chair, NYSECA

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