On voting, Cuomo offers fraction of a loaf

Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York angered voting rights activists this year by laying out an ambitious legislative agenda to make voting easier, then seeming barely to lift a finger for it.

And a modest new voting initiative by the governor isn’t assuaging their concerns.

On Monday, Cuomo (pictured), a Democrat, issued an executive order aimed at expanding access to voter registration in New York.

“As the federal government and foreign powers threaten the sanctity of America’s democracy, I am exercising my executive power to expand the availability and opportunity for every New Yorker to register to vote,” Cuomo said in a statement.

Under the order:

• All state agencies must make voter registration forms available and help people fill them out.

• All agencies also must mail or email registration forms to anyone whose contact information they maintain.

• The Department of Motor Vehicles, which already is required by federal law to give people the chance to register, must also send information about online registration in all emails to customers.

• State universities must investigate whether they’re doing enough to promote voter registration as required under state and federal law, and develop an “action plan.”

Cuomo’s order doesn’t satisfy voting rights advocates. In January, he used his annual State of the State address to announce, with some fanfare, a “Democracy Project,” centered on establishing early voting (New York is one of the few states not to offer it), and same-day and automatic voter registration.

Voting rights advocates rallied around those issues, but measures to enact them died in the Republican-controlled Senate, with Cuomo doing little to advocate for them.

“We’re always happy to see more enforcement of the [National Voter Registration Act],” said Susan Lerner of Common Cause New York, referring to Cuomo’s order. “But it’s certainly not a substitute for automatic vote registration, or for the significant election reform that activists here in New York have been asking for.”

Earlier this year, civil rights groups threatened to sue New York for not making it easier enough to register through the DMV. The state ranks 41st in voter turnout.

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