Typo screws up Automatic Voter Registration bill

A sign directs Ridgewood residents to the polls.  Eagle  file photo by David Brand.

A sign directs Ridgewood residents to the polls. Eagle file photo by David Brand.

By Victoria Merlino


A critical typo in the Automatic Voter Registration bill, which would automatically add New Yorkers to the voter rolls upon interaction with various state and local government agencies, caused State Senate Democrats to pull the bill from the State Assembly shortly after its passed the higher chamber.

The typo erroneously instructed non-citizens to register to vote by not checking an opt-out box, the New York Post reported. Voting while not a citizen can result in severe penalties, including prison time. The correct version of the bill should instruct non-citizens to check the box and opt out of registering to vote.

The measure would enable agencies like the Department of Motor Vehicles, the Office of Children and Family Services, the Department of Health, Department of Veterans Services and Military Affairs and the Department of Labor to automatically register residents to vote, unless the resident specifically opts out.

The Senate, which had already voted to enact the bill, recalled it Thursday night.

A joint statement from Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie called the situation a “significant technical issue,” and said that the bill would be passed at the next available opportunity.

“This action will not impact the implementation of this corrected legislation because, like the original legislation, it does not go into effect until 2021,” the joint statement said.

The typo got some Republican lawmakers riled up. Assemblymember Nicole Malliotakis, one of the first Republicans to mention the issue, called the bill the “NY Voter Fraud Act” in a tweet.

“The integrity of our elections must be preserved!” tweeted the former mayoral candidate.

“We did it! @NMalliotakis and I stood today against the non-citizen voting ploy and we got results. Despite full on efforts to ram this bill through it has been killed for this legislative session!” Assemblymember Colin Schmitt tweeted.

Western Queens State Sen. Michael Gianaris, who sponsored the bill, did not return a request for comment. The Senate Democrats referred the Eagle to a statement when asked about the AVR bill.