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Tkaczyk pushes election reform

Bills to simplify voter eligibility

Thursday, May 2, 2013
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— State Sen. Cecilia Tkaczyk, D-Duanesburg, is leading a bipartisan push for election reforms that she says would enfranchise voters and prevent drawn-out court battles like the one that followed her race last year.

During a news conference on Wednesday afternoon, she unveiled two pieces of legislation that address concerns that were raised in her race against then-Assemblyman George Amedore, R-Rotterdam. One bill would qualify voters if they are in “substantial compliance” with voting regulations and removes the requirement making affidavit voters list their previous address. The second bill would treat absentee ballots for election inspectors like normal absentee ballots.

Tkaczyk said current election law worked to disenfranchise voters in her race. “It was being used to throw your vote out,” she said.

Initially, hundreds of ballots were disqualified in the 46th Senate District and the race was ultimately decided by fewer than 20 votes when the state’s Appellate Division reversed some of a trial court’s rulings. “Democracy stumbled but justice prevailed,” Tkaczyk said of the final decision from the court.

For her, the issue of voting eligibility is simple: “As long as you’re registered to vote, your vote should count.”

Supporters of the legislation include the Democratic election commissioners from Montgomery and Schenectady counties. Schenectady County Democratic Election Commissioner Brian Quail said during the news conference that these reforms would affect thousands of people in the state and bring a “sea change in the area of enfranchisement.”

He highlighted the absentee ballot issue for election inspectors, which caused 53 votes in Ulster County to be initially invalidated in Tkaczyk’s race. Quail said it was “silly” for absentee ballots from election inspectors to have more restrictions than normal absentee ballots.

Quail added that people who oppose these reforms are afraid of having votes counted.

These bills are carried in the Assembly by Ulster County Democrat Kevin Cahill, who said on Wednesday that he expects them to be passed through his chamber, which has a large Democratic majority, by the end of the legislative session in June. Tkaczyk, noting that the Senate versions of her legislation have 20 co-sponsors, including members of the majority coalition, was also optimistic about moving her bills through the state Senate.

If these reforms become law, Tkaczyk said they would be effective immediately.

 
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