Governor Kathy Hochul signed the landmark John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act of New York into law on Monday.
The legislation cements New York State’s place as a national leader on voting rights and fulfilling a key part of the Governor’s 2022 State of the State agenda.
The John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act of New York encourages participation in voting by all eligible voters by ensuring that barriers to accessing the polls are removed. In particular, members of racial, ethnic, and language-minority groups will now be protected by new measures that will ensure they have an equal opportunity to vote in the State of New York.
Governor Hochul, speaking at the signing said, “As always, when the federal government fails to act, you can count on New York to punch back and fight even harder. We will not rest, we will not rest, while these injustices continue. As I said, we did it with abortions. We did it with reproductive freedom. We did it with gun legislation, and now we’re doing it again with voting rights.”
This legislation does so by addressing:
• Voter Dilution – Which prohibits methods of election that eliminate the voting strength of a protected class and establishes legal protections for violations.
• Voter Suppression – Which prohibits election-related laws and practices from being implemented in ways that deny members of a protected class the right to vote and establishes legal protections for violations.
• Voter Intimidation, Deception or Obstruction – This prohibits acts of intimidation, deception, or obstruction that impact the ability of New Yorkers to access their right to vote and establishes legal protections for violations.
• Expanded Language Assistance. This requires election-related language assistance beyond what is required by the federal Voting Rights Act.
• Preclearance. This establishes a state analogue to the now dormant ‘section 5 preclearance’ of the federal Voting Rights Act, requiring covered jurisdictions to ‘preclear’ any changes to certain important election-related laws and policies before they can implement them. Under the new law, covered jurisdictions seeking to make a change to a range of election measures will first need to have those changes reviewed to ensure they will not violate the voting rights of a protected class. Covered jurisdictions are those with a history of civil or voting rights violations.