NY Governor Kathy Hochul signs new voter protection bill into law

New York, New York - New York celebrated Juneteenth and paid tribute to the late civil rights icon and congressman John Lewis on Monday by enacting sweeping new voter protections.

Incumbent Kathy Hochul speaks during a televised debate in the race for NY governor.
Incumbent Kathy Hochul speaks during a televised debate in the race for NY governor.  © POOL / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP

The John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act of New York, signed into law by Governor Kathy Hochul, will make it easier to sue over discriminatory voting policies and require areas with a history of civil right violations to get approval before changing election rules.

"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," sponsor Assemblywoman Latrice Walker said during a ceremony at Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn.

Similar to a measure that recently failed to pass at the federal level, the voter protection bill will prohibit deceptive and suppressive voter practices, establish a voting and elections database, and make electronic election interference a misdemeanor.

"As always, when the federal government fails to act, you can count on New York to punch back and fight even harder," said Hochul, who is seeking election to a full term in the upcoming NY gubernatorial election. "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."

Hochul praised for ensuring New Yorkers' voting rights

New Yorkers casting their ballots in the 2020 presidential election.
New Yorkers casting their ballots in the 2020 presidential election.  © DAVID DEE DELGADO / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / GETTY IMAGES VIA AFP

The new law makes it so that most school boards or local election boards can no longer remove people from voter rolls, reduce voting hours, or cut number of polling sites without approval from the state attorney general’s office or courts.

Areas with disproportionately high arrest rates of minority New Yorkers will also need permission to change election rules.

It will also make it easier to sue over discriminatory voting policies like intimidation and suppression by laying out an expedited process for voters or the attorney general to file lawsuits over violations.

Groups including the New York Civil Liberties Union, the Brennan Center for Justice, and the Legal Defense Fund praised Hochul and state lawmakers for ensuring the voting rights of all New Yorkers are fully protected.

In 2013, the US Supreme Court gutted the landmark federal Voting Rights Act, ruling that states with a long history of voter discrimination no longer needed to get approval from the federal government to make changes to election procedures.

Since then, hundreds of bills restricting voter access have been proposed or passed all over the country, predominantly in Republican-run states.

Cover photo: POOL / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP

More on the topic New York City Local: