On Monday, Gov. Kathy Hochul signed the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act of New York into law. The legislation makes it easier for residents of the Empire State “to sue over discriminatory voting policies and require areas with a history of civil right violations to get approval before changing election rules.”
“As always, when the federal government fails to act, you can count on New York to punch back and fight even harder,” said Hochul at the ceremony commemorating the signing of the law. “No state in the nation has stood up with the courage and the conviction and the power that we have by protecting these important rights.”
“This is one of the most important bills to make it through the state Legislature in recent history, and it will deliver the strongest and most comprehensive voter protections of any state in America,” added Assemblywoman Latrice Walker.
The law states that most school boards or local election boards are no longer allowed to remove people from voter rolls, reduce voting hours or cut the number of polling sites without first gaining approval from the state attorney general’s office. Additionally, locales with high arrest rates of minority New Yorkers will also need the approval to amend election rules.
Civil rights groups such as the New York Civil Liberties Union, the Brennan Center for Justice and the Legal Defense Fund enthusiastically endorsed the law for its protection of the voting rights of all New Yorkers.
Sen. Zellnor Myrie, the sponsor of the bill, said that the restrictive measures on voting put in place by numerous states, the Supreme Court’s gutting of the Voting Rights Act and the January 6th attack on the Capitol heightened the need for voting rights to be protected by the state.
“This isn’t history, our democracy is on the line right now,” he said. “People are attacking it right now. And they’re doing it with greater force and they’re doing it with greater speed.”
“We’re not just celebrating Juneteenth, we’re celebrating our fight back against the attacks on our democracy,” he added.