Even very simple language in a state constitution can have profound affects for protecting people’s rights to vote. As University of Kentucky College of Law Professor Joshua Douglas has noted:
As an added level of protection, twenty-six states include a provision in their constitutions stating that elections shall be “free,” “free and equal,” or “free and open.” Although these terms might seem amorphous, several state courts have construed this language as guaranteeing all eligible voters access to the ballot. As Kentucky’s highest court long ago explained—in a passage that several other courts have cited—a constitutional provision declaring elections to be “free and equal” is “mandatory”: “It applies to all elections, and no election can be free and equal, within its meaning, if any substantial number of persons entitled to vote are denied the right to do so.”
Unfortunately, New York is not one of those twenty-six states. Other states have more specific protections by statute or by their constitution. Here are two examples:
California features early voting, no-excuse absentee balloting, online voter registration and same-day registration.
A 2008 constitutional early voting amendment enabled the legislature to allow its citizens to vote up to two weeks before an election.