Senate Democrats unite behind several bills

NY Capitol News

In a historic moment on Tuesday, the Independent Democratic Conference and the Senate Democrats held their first press conference as a unified conference.

“I want to thank all of my colleagues here, starting with my deputy leader Jeff Klein,” Senate Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D-Yonkers) said.

And like that, Stewart-Cousins welcomed former Independent Democratic Leader, Jeff Klein back in the fold. For the first time in seven years, since the group split from the Democrats in 2011, the newly unified Democrats stood together to address the press.

The issue they chose to focus on was early voting.

“The essence of our democracy depends on making sure people have an easy way of voting,” Senator Jeff Klein (D-Bronx) said.

Only 57 percent of eligible voters in NY voted in the 2016 presidential election, a time when more people usually turn out to vote. The Democratic Conference says this is because there is a lack of flexibility at the polls.

“Most people want to vote and their reason for not voting is sometimes a basic childcare issue, had to take care of the kids. Or they were working late or they didn’t know about the election.”

The Democrats are rolling out a package of bills that are meant to make it easier to vote early or absentee, give advance notice of election dates, and make the hours polling places are open more consistent

The Republican-controlled Senate, however, has been unable to pass early voting in the past.

“Republicans believe the more people that vote, the less success they will have at the ballot box,” Senator Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria) said.

That sentiment is shared not only by Democrats but also Blair Horner from the public interest research group.

“Republicans view an expansion of the franchise means more Democratic voters, and that’s not the way they should view it. This is about people being able to vote and eliminating the obstacles,” Blair Horner, Executive Director of New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG), said.

Early voting is already allowed in 34 states.

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