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by Jay Gallagher

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Voting bill passes Senate

The Senate today gave final legislative passage to a bill that will make it easier for citizens to vote, and has been a priority of the League for almost two decades.

The lawmakers voted 35-27 to allow people to vote by absentee ballot without presenting documentation why they couldn’t, or chose not to, show up at the polls.

“People shouldn’t have to climb through hoops to exercise this fundamental right,’’ said League legislative director Barbara Bartoletti, who said the League has been pushing for the change since 1993.

The chances for the measure to become law improved last year when Democrats seized control of the Senate for the first time since 1965. The politics of the situation are marginal voters - including those who may want to use absentee ballots - are more likely to vote for Democrats than Republicans. So it has passed routinely in the Democrat-controlled Assembly for years but never came before the full Senate until today. ( A coup last year that briefly returned control of the Senate to the Republicans disrupted the bill’s chances.)

Republicans argued today that voting is a privilege rather than a right and that the bar should not be further lowered to casting a ballot.

But three Republicans - Betty Little of Warren County, Charles Fuschillo of Nassau and Thomas Morahan of Rockland - joined all 32 Democrats in voting yes today.

As part of a package to make voting more accessible, the Senate also gave final approval to measures that allow absentee ballots to be faxed and that will include voter-registration forms on absentee ballots.

Gov. Paterson is expected to sign all three shortly.

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