Gov. Kathy Hochul signed voting rights legislation into law Monday morning to give all New York voters access and equal opportunity to vote.
The John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act of New York honors the late Congressman John Lewis, of Georgia, who was a voting activist throughout his career, aiming to protect the rights of minority voters.
Hochul says the legislation encourages participating in voting by removing barriers that hinder access to the polls.
"We honor these individuals and we are going to pass the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act of New York State to make sure that our election laws improve the voting process and protect our voters. We're going to fight back against voter suppression, voter, dilution, intimidation, deception, and obstruction," Hochul said.
The Act addresses the following:
Voter Dilution. Prohibits methods that eliminate the voting strength of a protected class and establishes legal protections for violations.
Voter Suppression. 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. 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. Requires election-related language assistance beyond what is required by the federal Voting Rights Act.
Preclearance. 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.
The federal voter rights legislation also named after Lewis, the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2021, passed the House but failed to pass the Senate in November of 2021.