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NEW YORK (WWTI) — Gov. Kathy Hochul signed the landmark John. R. Lewis Voting Rights Act of New York into law on Monday at Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn.

The purpose of the legislation is to encourage voting participation of all eligible voters by making polls throughout the state easily accessible. Gov. Hochul stressed the importance of the legislation on Monday.

“At a time when the very foundation of our democracy is under threat, New York is leading the nation with new laws protecting the fundamental right to vote,” Hochul said. “Today, we honor the work of the late Congressman John Lewis and activists like Evers as we make meaningful changes to our laws that enfranchise voters and ensure the voices of the people are heard in our democracy. Where the federal government fails to act, New York will continue to step up and lead the way, we did it with abortion protections, we did it with gun safety reforms, and I’m so proud to say we are doing it again with voting rights.”

The law specifically helps protect members of racial, ethnic, and language-minority groups by instilling new measures that make sure they have equal opportunity to vote in New York. The law works to prevent voter dilution, voter suppression, voter intimidation, deception, or obstruction, expand language assistance and establish preclearance measures regarding changes made to election-related laws and policies.

Examples of how the legislation will achieve each focus are listed below.

  • Voter Dilution: Prohibits methods of the election that eliminate the voting strength of a protected class and establishes legal protections for violations. 
  • Voter Suppression: Prohibits election-related laws and practices from being implemented in ways that deny members of a protected class the right to vote and establishes legal protections for violations. 
  • Voter Intimidation, Deception, or Obstruction: Prohibits acts of intimidation, deception, or obstruction that impact the ability of New Yorkers to access their right to vote and establishes legal protections for violations. 
  • Expanded Language Assistance: Requires election-related language assistance beyond what is required by the federal Voting Rights Act.  
  • Preclearance: Establishes a state analog to the now dormant “section 5 preclearance” of the federal Voting Rights Act, requiring covered jurisdictions to “preclear” any changes to certain important election-related laws and policies before they can implement them. Under the new law, covered jurisdictions seeking to make a change to a range of election measures will first need to have those changes reviewed to ensure they will not violate the voting rights of a protected class. Covered jurisdictions are those with a history of civil or voting rights violations.