ALBANY, N.Y. — New York state would require online campaign advertisements to include the identity of the group paying for the content under a proposal announced Thursday by Gov. Andrew Cuomo that aims to prevent meddling in the state’s democracy.
The Democrat also called for rules directing internet platforms such as Facebook to maintain a public file of every political ad relating to New York elections that would include the source of the ad and the number of times it’s been viewed. Groups paying for online election ads would have to file as independent campaign organizations, and foreign organizations would be prohibited from placing ads.
Finally, to encourage greater voter participation, Cuomo wants to streamline the voter registration process, allow same-day registration on election day and allow voters to cast a ballot up to 12 days before an election. Currently New York is one of only 12 states without some form of early voting.
Lawmakers would have to approve the changes, which come amid growing concerns about the influence online advertisements from Russian sources had on the 2016 presidential election. Online political content has also been an issue in New York state politics, with legislative candidates regularly complaining about anonymous online ads.
The 2016 election showed it’s time for the state to update its voting rules and subject online political ads to the same level of scrutiny and disclosure requirements as traditional election ads for print, TV and radio, Cuomo said.
“What we saw during the last election was a systematic effort to undermine and manipulate our very democracy,” Cuomo said in a statement announcing his proposal. “With these new safeguards, New York — in the strongest terms possible — will combat unscrupulous and shadowy threats to our electoral process, as well as break down fundamental barriers that for far too long have prevented New Yorkers from being heard and from exercising their right to vote.”
Legislative leaders have yet to weigh in on Cuomo’s newest proposal, but earlier attempts to pass similar changes have languished in Albany. Cuomo plans to detail his ideas during his Jan. 3 state of the state address, which comes on the first day of the 2018 legislative session.
Susan Lerner, executive director of the good-government group Common Cause-New York, called Cuomo’s suggestions “an important step forward.”
“For our democracy to function, we must have a voting process that deserves our trust,” she said.