Assemblywoman Jenne votes to make voting more accessible, end corporate campaign contribution loophole
Monday, May 7, 2018 - 5:41 pm

Assemblywoman Addie A.E. Jenne, D-Theresa, wants people to know about several election reform bills she supported to increase voter turnout, upgrade the voting process, and close a provision in existing law that allows some people to contribute more than $5,000 to political campaigns through limited liability corporation.

Each of these bills has been approved in the Assembly but not in the Senate.

“New Yorkers lead busy lives. For many, work and family obligations make it difficult to get to the polls,” Assemblywoman Jenne said. “Early voting allows these residents to participate in the democratic process, ensuring that state government truly reflects the interests of the people, especially in rural parts of the state,” she said.

Assembly bill 9608-B establishes early voting during a seven-day period before any general, primary or special election in New York State.

During the early voting period, polling locations would be required to be open for eight hours on weekdays and five hours on weekends and holidays, offering evening hours on at least two days.

County boards of elections would have the option of providing additional early voting hours and would be required to publicize the location, dates and hours of all early voting polling places within each county to voters.

Jenne noted the state has committed $7 million to help local governments with implementation to avoid an unfunded mandate.

New York State is one of only 13 states without early voting and ranked 42nd in voter turnout in the 2016 general election, according to the press release from her office.

By instituting an early voting period, New York “can begin to remedy its low turnout and ensure legislators are representative of the people,” the release said.

The St. Lawrence County Board of Elections reported 68 percent of its registered voters cast ballots in 2016, a presidential election year.

But voter participation dropped significantly in November 2017 when only local races were on the ballot. Many of the candidates on the ballot were unopposed. The turnout rate in St. Lawrence County was 40 percent in that election

Assemblywoman Jenne also helped pass the Voter Enfranchisement Modernization Act of 2018 (A.5382-A), which establishes online voter registration in New York State. This will streamline the registration process and update the state’s paper-based application process.

To increase access to mail-in ballots at home, the legislative package includes a bill that would amend the state Constitution to allow any citizen to receive an absentee ballot upon request (A.7623).

Under current law, residents can only receive absentee ballots if they expect to be absent from the county on the day of the election, or if they have an illness or physical disability. The amendment must be passed by both the Assembly and Senate in consecutive terms before it goes before voters as a ballot referendum.

“We should be doing everything we can to help more New Yorkers exercise their right to vote,” Jenne said. “By instituting no-excuse absentee ballots, we can ensure that those who may have a tough time getting to the polls can still participate in our democracy,” she said.

Another bill would extend the $5,000 aggregate contribution limit, already applicable to corporations, to include LLCs (A.9758-A). It would also require LLCs to disclose the names of individuals with membership interests, attributing LLC contributions to them.

“One person, one vote is the founding principle of our democracy. But the huge amount of special interest money flowing into our elections threatens that foundation. Closing the LLC loophole will help us increase transparency and ensure that the wealthy few aren’t able to sidestep campaign contribution limits,” she said.

Currently, people and corporations can make unlimited contributions to the same candidate, political party or campaign committee by creating new LLCs for each contribution. Each LLC is treated as an individual donor, even if multiple LLCs are owned by the same person or entity, making it harder to determine the real contributor.