ATLANTA (AP) — New York voters for years have experienced some of the longest wait times in the nation on Election Day. Attempts to fix the problem routinely became casualties of the divided politics of the state Legislature.
That dynamic changed last November, when Democrats won majorities in both legislative chambers, and it didn’t take them long to act.
Just weeks into this year’s legislative session, they passed a bill to allow early voting, and Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo promptly signed it.
“Early voting is going to make a significant difference for countless numbers of New Yorkers by making polling places so much more accessible and allow voters to determine when it is most convenient for them,” said Susan Lerner, executive director of Common Cause New York.
New York is among a small number of states where Democrats made big gains in last year’s election and have used that power to pass laws to make it easier to register and to vote. They have introduced early voting, all-mail voting or automatic registration.
A few Republican-led states — some of which saw high turnout for Democratic candidates — are going in the opposite direction, advancing bills to tighten voter registration and early voting.
“Some of this seems like a fairly direct response to things that happened in the midterms,” said Max Feldman, who tracks voting laws at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University’s School of Law.
In New Mexico, Democrats not only expanded their majority in the state House but also claimed the governor’s mansion after eight years of GOP control. By March, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham had signed a law to allow people to register and vote on the same day beginning in 2021. Previously, registration ended 28 days before an election.
Hawaii lawmakers approved legislation replacing the in-person voting system with one made up entirely of mailed ballots. If the measure is signed into law, the state will join Colorado, Oregon and Washington with mail-only voting. Delaware approved in-person, early voting beginning in 2022.
While bills increasing voter access this year far outnumbered those seeking to impose restrictions, many of the expansion bills were put forward by Democratic lawmakers in states led by Republicans. That means they are unlikely pass.
In the 2018 elections, Democrats nearly doubled to 14 the number of states in which they control the governor’s office and both legislative chambers, but Republicans remain in charge in more states — 22.
While some voting reforms such as automatic registration have drawn bipartisan support, Republicans generally have opposed same-day registration, mail-only voting and other changes, saying they increase the potential for fraud.