ALBANY – A package of bills intended to boost voter participation in New York was signed this morning by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.
The measures, stalled for years until Democrats fully took control of the Legislature this year, includes permitting early voting that would kick in two weekends prior to election day, new restrictions on donations by limited liability companies and ending New York’s dual primary date system for federal and state political primary dates. There will now be a single statewide primary vote in June.
The Legislature easily passed the bills last week, though counties and some government watchdog groups have said the early voting bill amounts to an unfunded mandate on localities.
“The early voting is going to be transformative,’’ Cuomo said before signing the bills this morning.
The package also includes automatic voter registration transfers when someone moves from one county to another or from another state and letting 16- and 17-year-olds to preregister to vote that would then automatically become effective on their 18th birthday.
The measures Cuomo signed do not include two major efforts: permitting people to register to vote as late as Election Day and loosening rules for absentee voting so that residents would no longer have to give any reason for why they were voting early via mail or in person at local election board headquarters.
Both of those changes would need to go through a constitutional amendment process, which requires two, separately elected sessions of the Legislature to sign off and then a statewide referendum. The earliest those two issues could go before voters statewide is the fall of 2021.
Cuomo also wants separate action on his call to ban all corporate donations and to end the system in which most upstate counties – though not Erie County – have six fewer hours to vote on primary election day than downstate locations.
The Manhattan event was a bit unusual from the often mundane bill signing ceremonies by governors: actor Ben Stiller sat at the head table immediately next to Cuomo with two key lawmakers sitting as bookends. Stiller called the package of bills “critical” for increasing voter turnout.
Stiller then gave a shoutout to Cuomo for pushing lawmakers over the years to give big tax breaks to the film and TV industries.
“He’s always been there for the film industry," said Stiller, who directed a Showtime series on the 2015 Dannemora prison break.
The state tax breaks are worth more than $400 million annually to the industries.