New York residents, advocacy groups, and progressive politicians celebrated Thursday after Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed legislation extending the state's deadline for voters to change their political party affiliation ahead of next year's primary elections.
"Thank you to Gov. Cuomo for signing the legislation before the Oct. 11 deadline, to state legislators for taking this essential step forward, and to grassroots groups in the state who demanded real change and fought for it."
—Sen. Bernie Sanders
Previously, voters already registered in New York had only until Oct. 11 to change their party affiliation for the state's April 28, 2020 primary. The legislation extends that deadline to Feb. 14. New York's old rules garnered national criticism during the 2016 Democratic presidential primary race, which Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) lost by 16 points to the party's eventual nominee, Hillary Clinton.
Sanders, now a 2020 Democratic presidential primary candidate, urged the Democratic National Committee last week to sanction Cuomo if he declined to sign the bill into law before the state's rapidly approaching deadline. The White House hopeful welcomed the governor's decision Thursday.
"For too long, New York state has had one of the worst barriers to primary voter registration in the country, something I have long sought to rectify," Sanders said in a statement. "In 2016, countless voters across the state were disenfranchised due to the absurd deadline for voters to register their party affiliation more than six months in advance of the primary."
"At a time of rampant voter suppression by Republicans across the country, Democrats must do everything possible to make it easier, not harder, for Americans to vote and participate in democracy," Sanders continued. "Thank you to Gov. Cuomo for signing the legislation before the Oct. 11 deadline, to state legislators for taking this essential step forward, and to grassroots groups in the state who demanded real change and fought for it."
The biggest impact here is that New York's *2.5 million* party-unaffiliated registered voters have a lot longer to become Democrats (or Republicans) to vote in the 2020 primaries.
— Ben Max (@TweetBenMax) September 26, 2019
Local Democratic politicians, including state Sen. Julia Salazar and state Assemblymember Yuh-Line Niou, also celebrated Cuomo's signature Thursday.
Big news: Governor Cuomo just signed S.6532-A, @BrianKavanaghNY’s bill which moves New York’s deadline from October to next *February 14th* for voters to change their party enrollment in order to vote in the upcoming June primary election!
— Julia Salazar (@JuliaCarmel__) September 26, 2019
Let’s get folks registered!!!!! https://t.co/2XLNAF7s75
— Yuh-Line Niou (@yuhline) September 26, 2019
Cuomo said in a statement Thursday that "this measure will make it easier for New Yorkers to have their voices heard in presidential, congressional, and state primaries."
"While the federal administration continues to look for new ways to disenfranchise voters across the country," the governor said, "in New York we are making monumental changes to break down more barriers to the ballot box and encourage more people to exercise this fundamental right."
Sharing Cuomo's announcement on Twitter Thursday, the state chapter of the watchdog group Common Cause declared, "This is a huge victory for all New Yorker voters." In a message to state residents, the group added, "Know your new deadlines and don't forget to register to vote!"
Sanders campaign staffer Briahna Joy Gray also took to Twitter to welcome the new rules and urge New Yorkers to register to vote sooner rather than later.
The rule change is the "result of a lot of hard work by our lawmakers, as well as by advocates to keep the pressure on!" Brian Mangan, executive vice president of the Chelsea Reform Democratic Club, wrote in response to Gray's tweet. "New York is better, fairer, and more democratic today."