New York voters will get an extra four months to register for political parties in order to vote in primary elections next year, after a nudge from Bernie Sanders.
Under the new rule, passed Thursday, New York voters have until Feb. 14 to sign up for, or switch, political parties—a necessary condition to vote in next April’s presidential primaries and the state and congressional primaries next June. Under previous rules, New Yorkers had until Oct. 11 to sign up for a party or be locked out of primary votes.
Politicians and advocates blasted New York’s old deadline — the most restrictive in the country — for disenfranchising thousands of voters in the 2016 presidential primaries.
It was passed by the Legislature in June, and Gov. Cuomo promised to sign it, but the bill languished over the summer.
Sen. Sanders (D-VT), who has attracted scores of voters previously not affiliated with the democratic party, took notice of the delay in final passage of the bill, as did local political agitators at the Chelsea Reform Democratic Club.
Sanders campaign manager Faiz Shakir slammed the governor for not move more quickly on the law.
“There is no excuse for letting this legislation languish,” he said earlier this month.
Cuomo’s office said that they were sticking to the Oct. 11 drop-dead deadline to pass the bill.
The new law brings New York in line with most other states and guidance from the Democratic National Committee, which criticized a small group of states including New York for having unnecessarily early party registration deadlines.
Sanders welcomed Thursday’s news.
“At a time of rampant voter suppression by Republicans across the country, Democrats must do everything possible to make it easier, not harder, for Americans to vote and participate in democracy,” he said.
Though the Sanders campaign may have felt the biggest negative effects from the old rules, the early registration deadline also kept some high-profile Trump voters from casting their 2016 primary ballots: Ivanka and Eric Trump couldn’t vote for their father because they didn’t switch from Independent to Republican in time.
Advocates who’d long been pushing for the change said the new bill was an important step.
“New York is fairer and more democratic today than it was yesterday,” said Brian Mangan, Vice President of the Chelsea Reform Democratic Club.