Speaker Sheldon Silver wants early voting in NY

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver speaks to members of

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver speaks to members of the press in Charlotte, N.C., before the Democratic National Convention. (Sept. 3, 2012) (Credit: Chris Ware)

The State Legislature's top Democrat said Thursday that he will introduce bills to allow "early voting" in New York and to require more disclosure about campaign spending.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) said New York should join 32 other states that allow residents to cast votes before Election Day to increase participation and decrease lines at polling places. His proposal would allow voting beginning 14 days before a general election and seven days before a primary or special election.

Silver said 46 percent of New York voters went to the polls in November -- a rate that topped just two other states.

His other proposal would require more disclosure about who funds so-called independent groups that campaign to elect or defeat candidates. Currently, expenditures by such groups slip through campaign-finance law loopholes because they don't originate from a candidate or political party. Further, such groups can accept unlimited contributions -- unlike candidates.

Silver said the loophole "allows corporations, industry groups, wealthy activists, unions and other special interests" to spend unconstrained amounts of money on campaigns. He said his proposed bill would force all campaign committees to register with the state Board of Elections and file required financial-disclosure reports.

Democrats in the Senate and Assembly, along with Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, have said they will push for broad campaign-finance-law changes in the upcoming legislative session. Senate Majority Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) has said he would favor changes to increase transparency.

The session kicks off Jan. 9.

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