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by Jay Gallagher

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Hoop still in place

Reformists figured one of the slam-dunks they could count on when Democrats took control of the Senate last year was a measure known as a “no-excuses’’ absentee ballot.

New York is one of the few states that requires people who want to use absentee ballots to disclose personal information about why they can’t get to the polls Election Day’ like affidavits from their employers.

The politics seemed to break the reformers’ way because typically people on the edge of whether to vote or not tend to support Democrats, while Republicans do better among established voters. So the bill for years has been approved by the Democratic-controlled Assembly but never surfaced in the GOP-run Senate.

But it turned out not to be so easy after all even after control of the Senate changed hands last year. Some Democrats, reformers were told privately, were concerned that expanding the number of ballots might make them more vulnerable to primary challenges, mostly in New York City.

Still the bill, sponsored by Senate Elections Committee Chairman Joseph Addabbo, D-Queens, and approved by the Assembly, and was poised to pass the Senate last June when the coup gave power back to the Republicans temporarily, so it died. This year, in light of Republican opposition, Democrats told reformers they were waiting for the election of their 32nd member - who turned out to be Jose Peralta of Queens - to pass it.

He was seated last week, but so far, the bill hasn’t moved to the floor, and it’s unclear why.

League legislative director Barbara Bartoletti it’s important that the bill pass.

“This would drop a barrier for voters to participate in the process without having to jump through unnecessary hoops,’’ she said.

Unnecessary hoops? For voters? In New York? So far, this one is still in place.

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