ALBANY — New York is relaxing party enrollment deadlines to make it easier to cast a ballot in primary elections under a bill signed Thursday by Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
The new law gives voters until Feb. 14 to enroll in a party to vote in the April presidential primary or the June congressional and state primary.
Under the old laws, voters had to sign up for a party up to a year before a primary if they wanted to participate. This year, voters would have had until Oct. 11 to enroll in a party in order to cast a primary ballot in 2020.
The deadlines kept many people from voting in the 2016 primaries, including many supporters of Bernie Sanders who had been unaffiliated and didn’t enroll as Democrats in time to cast a ballot. On the Republican side, two of Donald Trump’s children failed to register in time to vote for their father in the GOP primary for president.
The change removes an unnecessary hurdle to voting and will encourage more New Yorkers to get involved in their democracy, Cuomo said in a statement announcing his signature of the bill.
“In New York we are making monumental changes to break down more barriers to the ballot box and encourage more people to exercise this fundamental right,” Governor Cuomo said.
Lawmakers approved the change earlier this year as one of several long-sought reforms to the state’s outdated election laws. Others include a provision allowing people to cast a ballot up to 10 days before an election and another that will pre-register 16- and 17-year-olds when they sign up for a driving permit so they’re automatically able to vote at age 18.
Leaders of third parties have long complained that the old law unfairly targeted unaffiliated voters who often didn’t even know they’d need to enroll in a party in order to cast a primary vote. Frank Morano, a spokesman for the state’s Reform Party, hailed the new law but said the state should go further by opening up primaries to all voters, regardless of whether they’re enrolled in the party.
“Let this be a first step, not the last,” he said.