Protect & Strengthen Democracy
Safeguarding and Expanding the Vote
Democracy was on the line like never before this past election year, and we brought an all-hands-on-deck approach to safeguarding and expanding the fundamental right to vote for all New Yorkers. In the face of unprecedented attacks on voting access and integrity before, during, and after the election—and a pandemic that created additional barriers to a safe and secure vote—we used a variety of legal and legislative means, as well as education and grassroots advocacy, to fight for greater accessibility, accountability, and security.
Beyond that, we continued to push for an improved voting infrastructure that will extend well into the future and amplify turnout by eradicating voter intimidation, gerrymandering, and other barriers to the ballot. Despite recent progress, New York’s election laws are antiquated, cumbersome, and inequitable, and voter registration in the state remains one of the lowest ranked in the country. Without a free and fair vote, the fight for civil rights and civil liberties would be impossible.
Throughout 2020, we pressured local and state elections officials and lawmakers to repeal outdated registration deadlines, implement an online voter registration system, increase poll sites, and train and retain more high-quality poll workers. We led a digital organizing campaign in the lead-up to the November election that activated thousands of volunteers to drive turnout, and we pressed the legislature to allow COVID concerns to justify absentee ballots with prepaid postage, adequate tracking, and notification of correctable errors. We secured a huge victory in December when Governor Cuomo signed automatic voter registration into law, which could lead to a million new registered voters in the state.
Amid these widespread efforts, we were involved in three pivotal voting lawsuits during the intense period right before and after the November 3 election:
- On October 28, we sued the Rockland County Board of Elections over long lines and inadequate disability accommodations at the county’s four early voting sites. The following day, we reached a settlement with the Board of Education that extended early voting by five hours at all polling places over the final weekend before election day.
- On November 1, we joined the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project and the ACLU of Texas in filing a motion to intervene in a spurious lawsuit that sought to throw out nearly 127,000 early ballots validly cast via drive-thru voting in Harris County, Texas. The court quickly dismissed the complaint and denied the plaintiffs’ request for a preliminary injunction, ending the effort to disenfranchise Texas voters and showcasing how the NYCLU’s work has impact in other parts of the country.
- On November 24, amid the Trump campaign’s antidemocratic multi-state effort to throw out huge swaths of valid ballots, we filed a motion to intervene in a bad-faith lawsuit that challenged absentee and affidavit votes already validated in the race for state senator from the 42nd district. Ultimately, the margin of victory in the race was greater than the number of disputed ballots.