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Ballot Issues That Expand Voter Access In New York Face GOP Backlash

Georgia voters at an Atlanta polling place during the January runoff elections for two U.S. Senate seats. Election officials in the state say new laws and disinformation have made their jobs difficult.
Voters go to the polls at Sara Smith Elementary polling station, in the Buckhead district, on January 5, 2021 in Atlanta during the Georgia Senate runoff elections. - After an unprecedented campaign that mobilized President Donald Trump and his successor Joe Biden, the people of Georgia started voting Tuesday in two US Senate runoffs that could shape the first years of the new Democratic presidency. For nearly 20 years Georgia has voted reliably Republican in the presidential election and Senate contests. (Photo by virginie kippelen / AFP) (Photo by VIRGINIE KIPPELEN/AFP via Getty Images)

ALBANY, NY (WSKG) - Two propositions on the November ballot in New York are drawing a backlash from Republicans and Conservatives. They say measures to allow same-day voter registration and universal mail-in voting could increase voter fraud, while supporters say there is no evidence of that happening in other states where the practices are allowed.

Proposition three on this fall’s ballot would allow the state Legislature to enact same-day voter registration by eliminating a requirement in the state’s constitution that says someone must be registered to vote 10 days before Election Day.

Proposition four would repeal the requirement that limits absentee voting by mail to people who are too ill to come to the polls, or are traveling and away from their polling site. It would eliminate obstacles to the state enacting universal mail-in balloting.

The head of the state’s Republican Party, Nick Langworthy, says if the propositions are approved, they could have a drastic negative impact on elections and create chaos at local boards of election.

“There are things that are there in very flowery, beautiful language, that sound like they are for the betterment of our government and access to elections,” Langworthy said. “But in reality, these proportions are devastating to our election integrity.”

Langworthy spoke in Buffalo, in one of several stops on a statewide tour to gain attention to the propositions and the Republicans’ opposition to them.

The state’s Conservative Party is also opposed, and is running ads.

Senate GOP Minority Leader Robert Ortt says the proposition to allow same-day voter registration could create election fraud, unless voters are required to show identification. Ortt is the sponsor of a voter ID bill in the Senate.

“It’s the height of hypocrisy, racism and prejudice to suggest that in the year 2021, people of color, minorities do not possess some form of identification,” Ortt said.

Ortt also warns that increased mail-in voting will lead to fraudulent ballot harvesting.

“What we’re talking about is organizations with a vested interest in the outcome of that election, going to people with ballots that are already filled out and saying, ‘I just need you to sign,’” Ortt said. “It’s modern-day ballot box stuffing.”

Ortt cites a congressional district in North Carolina, where the 2018 election for the seat had to be redone because of the actions of a man who collected absentee ballots from some voters and then signed or filled them in himself.

According to research by, among others, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and New York University’s the Brennan Center, incidences of voter fraud in the U.S. are extremely rare, and occur in just a fraction of a percentage point of cases.

Supporters of the propositions, including Susan Lerner of Common Cause, say the Republicans are making “false claims” about what she says are “common sense” proposals.

“This is fear mongering of the worst and most egregious sort,” Lerner said. “Moving towards a big lie that simply should not be acceptable in our political discourse.”

Lerner says 20 states and Washington, D.C., already have same-day registration. And she says 34 states already allow voting by mail.

“There are many states, including states with Republican-led legislatures like Alaska, Wisconsin and Georgia, which enjoy the very rights that opponents want to deny to New Yorker,” Lerner said. “Why should voters in Brooklyn and Buffalo miss out on the same opportunities as voters in two-thirds of the nation?”

Lerner says in the 2020 elections, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, New Yorkers were allowed to cite the coronavirus as a reason to request an absentee ballot. She says boards of elections processed the 1.4 million additional ballots without incident.

She says same-day registration and mail-in voting are popular with the public and increase turnout.

Both sides say they intend to get the word out on the propositions through Election Day.