A law signed Tuesday by Gov. Kathy Hochul is meant to ensure votes cast by affidavit ballot are still counted, even if the voter appears at the wrong polling place. 

Votes would still be eligible if the ballot was cast in the correct county and state Assembly district, addressing an issue known as "wrong church, wrong pew" voting.

"Access to the ballot box shouldn't be held up by complicated and unclear voting processes," Hochul said. "New York continues to lead the nation in taking critical steps forward to protect the fundamental right to vote. My administration is committed to empowering voters and improving the state's electoral process, which has disenfranchised too many New Yorkers for too long."

The law will require the county and canvassing of affidavit ballots, and not have their vote automatically invalidated. 

"Over the past four years, New York has done more than any other state to reduce barriers for voters and ensure everyone's voice can be heard in our democracy," said state Sen. Zellnor Myrie, who sponsored the bill with state Assemblyman Robert Carroll. "This new law builds on that progress by finding more reasons to count valid votes and fewer reasons to disqualify them."

Advocates for the measure had pushed over the last several years to address the issue of voters who appear at the wrong polling place. Data released in 2021 found 13,800 ballots were disqualified in New York because voters appeared at the wrong polling site, and as many as a third of these votes in some counties were cast by affidavit ballot. 

The measure approved by the governor comes after lawmakers and Hochul backed a state-level version of a federal law designed to enshrine voter protections in New York election law.

"With our democracy under attack, it is essential that in New York does everything in its power to ensure eligible voters ballots are counted," Carroll said. "With this legislation, New York will no longer invalidate otherwise valid ballots because a voter went to the incorrect polling place in their home county and assembly district. This critical voting reform will help ensure that the rights of thousands of voters are protected."