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Groups demand more time for New Yorkers to register to vote

July 30, 2020 Marina Villeneuve Associated Press
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Civil liberties groups are asking a state court to block New York election officials from enforcing a requirement that voters register 25 days before an election.

Representatives of the New York Civil Liberties Union and the American Civil Liberties Union said Wednesday that they have filed a request for a preliminary injunction in their ongoing lawsuit first filed in November 2018 against the New York state Board of Elections.

The civil liberties groups’ leaders argue that the 25-day cut-off left about 93,000 New Yorkers unable to vote in the 2016 presidential election because they registered after the deadline. The preliminary injunction would ensure New Yorkers can register at least ten days before the election, which the group’s leaders say is the latest deadline currently allowed under the state’s constitution.

“This November’s election is one of the most important in our lifetimes, and it is more urgent than ever that no New Yorker is needlessly barred from participating,” NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman said.

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Spokespeople for the state Board of Elections didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday.

The Democratic-led Legislature and voting rights groups are pushing to make it easier for New Yorkers to vote in November. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said he supports the group’s lawsuit and said it’s “crucial” that people can register up until Election Day.

“Look, this is a constitutional right, people have a right to vote, but there’s a problem in this state, a 25-day cutoff before the election,” the mayor said in a Wednesday press conference. “If you haven’t registered by that point you don’t get to vote. That makes no sense in the middle of a pandemic.”

The huge spike in mail-in voting in the state’s June 23 primary has fueled concerns that voters could be disenfranchised in New York under existing rules derided by voting rights groups as outdated.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, faces decisions on legislation passed by the state Senate and Assembly last week that addresses the expected surge in mail-in voting this fall.

The bills would ensure certain absentee ballots without a postmark are accepted, make it easier for voters to vote by absentee over fear of spreading COVID-19, and allow voters to request absentee ballots earlier and fix deficient ballots.

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