Memorandum of Opposition Regarding Requiring Landlords to Distribute Voter Registration Forms (Intro 750)

BILL: Intro 750
SUBJECT: Requiring Landlords to Distribute Voter Registration Forms
DATE: March 23, 2017
SPONSORS: Ben Kallos, Fernando Cabrera, Costa G. Constantinides, Helen K. Rosenthal

 

The Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY) represents over 17,000 property owners, developers, managers, brokers, and other real estate professionals in New York City. While we commend the bill’s well-intentioned efforts to promote civic participation, we oppose Intro No. 750 because it would place undue demands on landlords whose primary responsibility is to ensure the safety and quality of the housing provided to their tenants.

Intro No. 750 will require building owners of multiple dwellings to provide tenants with state voter registration forms upon a lease signing. This bill would also require owners to supply tenants with forms in several different languages within ten days, if requested. Additionally, owners may assist with completion of the form and if they choose to do such, the bill requires them to transmit any completed forms to the state Board of Elections within specified timeframes.

State and local laws already outline a lengthy task list for owners of multiple dwelling unit buildings to ensure the building’s good repair and tenant safety.[1]  This bill, while well-intentioned, would task owners with yet another responsibility well outside their mandate.  It is laudable for the Council to promote civic participation, but building owners are simply not equipped nor trained to assist their tenants in completing a voter registration form.  Furthermore, in some instances, some tenants do not use their units as primary residences and could be registered to vote in a jurisdiction other than New York State.  Requiring the building owner to provide voter registration forms to the tenant may only lead to confusion and the possibility of a voter being registered in two jurisdictions.  

Lastly, although the time requirements would help to ensure the prompt return of application forms, violations of those time frames will be hard to verify and will likely result in enforcement measures based on imprecise information. Similarly, landlords who choose to aid applicants may also unknowingly expose themselves to violations of state and federal laws because they may not be properly equipped to verify U.S. citizenship. The highest penalty for which is a fine of $5, 000 and up to four years of prison.[2]

For these abovementioned reasons, REBNY voices its opposition to Intro. No 750.

 

[1]See New York State Consolidated Laws, Title 27, Sub-section 2005 of the New York City Administrative Code.

[2] New York State Voter Registration Form. New York State Board of Elections. Web. July 2016. Accessed March 21, 2017. <http://www.elections.ny.gov/nysboe/download/voting/voteform_enterable.pdf>