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Governor Calls For Help For Middle Class, Launching State Of State Speeches

Voting reforms are among the changes proposed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo during his annual State of the State speeches. Cuomo is set to speak at SUNY Purchase on Tuesday morning.
Voting reforms are among the changes proposed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo during his annual State of the State speeches. Cuomo is set to speak at SUNY Purchase on Tuesday morning. Photo Credit: file photo

This story has been updated.

ALBANY, N.Y. -- In an effort to eliminate barriers to voting, Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposes the state adopt plans for early voting.

The governor said the move would make voting easier by requiring counties to provide at least one day of polling during the 12 days leading up to an election. His proposal also includes plans for automatic voter registration and same-day registration.

The governor, who lives in Westchester County, publicized the voting reforms in advance of this week's State of the State speeches.

The governor's State-of-the-State proposals are highlighted online by clicking here:

Cuomo's early voting proposal is one of several proposals the governor made in advance of his State of the State addresses that he will conduct in various locations beginning Monday. Cuomo is scheduled to speak on Tuesday morning at SUNY Purchase, where protests are planned by those who think the governor proposes to spend too much to subsidize aging Upstate power plants while closing Indian Point in Westchester.

"Voting is the cornerstone of our democracy. This past election shined a bright light on the deficiencies of New York's antiquated election laws and the artificial barriers they create that prevent and discourage voters from exercising this sacred right, " Cuomo said. "These proposals will modernise and open up our election system, making it easier for more voters to participate in the process and helping to make a more fair, more just and more representative New York for all."

Other announcements, made public last week, include the governor's proposal for free tuition at state higher-learning institutions for students from low- or middle-class households, an expansion of the state child care tax credit and a $10 billion plan to upgrade JFK airport and its transit links.

During Monday's speech Cuomo also suggested ways to help the state's middle class.

“Our middle class is hurting and angry at their lack of progress...They are paying the bills, but lacking security...We understand the anger and we will address it. Today I am proposing a Middle Class Recovery Act. It has three components: jobs and infrastructure; access to education; and lower taxes," Cuomo said.

The governor's critics said his opening speech -- delivered Monday morning at One World Trade Center in Manhattan -- was full of more unfunded mandates that most New Yorkers cannot afford.

Brandon Muir, executive director of Reclaim New Yor, said: “Ever the showman, the governor apparently continues to think he’s some combination of Robert Moses, FDR, and Santa Claus. The sad fact is that in most of New York, unemployment is up, savings rates are down, and job growth is weak to nonexistent. Residents continue to flee the state at the highest rate in the nation. Giveaway schemes to bribe private companies to create jobs aren’t working."

“Despite what he told New Yorkers this morning, the middle class will have to pay for these grand visions and giveaways. We had hoped for honesty. So far, all we have is a fantasy we can’t afford," Muir said.

The early voting proposal will require counties to have one early voting poll site for every 50,000 residents. A bipartisan county boards of elections will determine the location of early voting polling places by considering accessibility and convenience.

State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has been proposing early voting. Last month, Schneiderman's Civil Rights Bureau released a report that found that compared to other states, New Yorkers face some of the biggest obstacles to voting including long lines at polls.

"There is no good reason New York lags the country, lacking early voting, same-day voter registration, and streamlined online voter registration," Schneiderman said in a press statement. "That's why last month I announced I will introduce the NY Votes Act, which will provide a comprehensive roadmap to fixing our state's broken voting system."

In addition to Cuomo's proposals, Schneiderman said he would like the state to provide online registration, consolidate three primary election days into one, allow New Yorkers to vote in the party primary of their choice and ensure uniform polling hours.

Schneiderman also said that the on the last election day, his office's voter hotline received 10 times more complaints than ever before. More than 1,500 New Yorkers complained of long lines, inaccurate voter rolls and confused or inconsistent policies.

"Our guiding principle on voting rights should be simple: any law that makes voting easier is a good law -- any law that makes voting harder, is a bad one," Schneiderman said.

New York is one of the 13 states where early voting is unavailable, relying on absentee ballots.

Reclaim New York's Muir added: “Rather than Bernie Sanders-inspired policies aimed at getting national headlines, we need the governor to stop spending money that taxpayers simply don’t have. New Yorkers aren’t political props, and there’s no such thing as ‘free.’ New York’s middle class is struggling because of high income and property taxes, neither were seriously addressed in Governor Cuomo's lengthy fantasy wish-list."

Gov. Cuomo will release more 2017 proposals during this week's State of the State tour. Cuomo's schedule of speeches for the rest of this week is:

-- Tuesday, 10:30 a.m.: SUNY Purchase Performing Arts Center

-- Tuesday, 1 p.m.: Farmingdale State College on Long Island

-- Wednesday, 10 a.m.: University at Albany Performing Arts Center

-- Wednesday, 1 p.m.: Carrier Theater in Syracuse

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