Summary of Rural Area Flexibility Analysis

Preclearance pursuant to the New York Voting Rights Act

The John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act of New York (the “NYVRA”) was enacted on June 20, 2022, with the express purpose of encouraging participation in the elective franchise by all eligible voters to the maximum extent and ensuring that eligible voters who are members of racial, color, and language-minority groups have an equal opportunity to participate in the political processes of the State of New York, especially to exercise the elective franchise. See N.Y. Elec. Law § 17-200. To ensure that the right to vote is not denied or abridged on account of membership in a race, color, or language-minority group, the NYVRA requires that certain types of voting- or election-related changes (“covered policies”), when made by certain jurisdictions (“covered entities”), be precleared by the Office of the Attorney General’s Civil Rights Bureau (the “CRB”) or by a designated court before the changes can be enacted or implemented. See N.Y. Elec. Law § 17-210. The NYVRA further authorizes the CRB to promulgate rules to effectuate the preclearance requirement, which may include, but need not be limited to, rules for an expedited, emergency preclearance process in the event of a disaster or exigent circumstances, and rules designating additional types of voting- or election-related changes for preclearance coverage beyond those enumerated in the statute. See N.Y. Elec. Law §§ 17-210(2)(l), 17-210(4)(f)(iv), 17-210(7). 

Pursuant to the authority granted by the NYVRA, the CRB is proposing a rule for public comment, accompanied by a rural area flexibility analysis pursuant to section 202-bb of the State Administrative Procedure Act. The proposed rule affects local governments throughout the state, which may be subject to preclearance requirements. As of December 19, 2023, the CRB had preliminarily identified 34 local governments that are covered entities as provided in section 17-210(3) of the NYVRA and thus subject to this rule. New York State Executive Law § 481 defines “rural” in a manner that applies to 44 counties, none of which is included among the 34 preliminarily identified covered entities. Because coverage status is subject to change over time, the CRB is unable to estimate the number of political subdivisions in rural areas to which this rule may apply in the future.

To the extent that local governments in rural areas may incur costs associated with preclearance under the NYVRA, such costs are imposed not by this rule, but by the requirements set forth in the statute. However, in the interest of providing maximum transparency and guidance, the CRB provides an estimated range of compliance and professional costs that some local governments may incur in this analysis. 

To estimate the potential costs associated with preclearance, the CRB analyzed wage data for occupations representing an approximation of the types of staff roles that may be involved at various points of the process of preparing a preclearance submission, and estimated an approximate range of hours that might be spent by employees within those occupations on preparing and submitting a covered policy for preclearance. Recognizing that hourly wages in large municipalities may exceed those of smaller and rural jurisdictions, the CRB limited its scope to the following areas, provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ May 2023 Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (“OEWS”), for the rural area flexibility analysis: Southwest New York Nonmetropolitan Area, Central East New York nonmetropolitan area, and Capital/Northern New York nonmetropolitan area. A more detailed description of this methodology is included in the analysis. 

For several reasons, it is likely that the high end of the range identified by the CRB far exceeds the amount that most jurisdictions can expect to spend for any given submission. First, in most instances, covered entities will be requesting preclearance for comparatively simple and routine changes (e.g., moving poll sites), rather than rarer, more complicated ones (e.g., form of government changes). In addition, jurisdictions with less fluctuation in their election procedures will likely need to submit fewer preclearance requests than jurisdictions with more fluctuation. Moreover, because limitations in data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ May 2023 Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (“OEWS”) precluded the CRB from isolating New York public sector wage estimates for the selected occupations, the wage estimates included in this analysis were calculated with data collected from both public and private sector employers. These figures likely exceed those associated with government wages of local jurisdictions, as private sector wages are typically higher than government wages and may inflate the estimates. 

The analysis also includes information regarding the types and estimated number of regulated jurisdictions; reporting, recordkeeping, and other compliance requirements; initial and annual costs; minimizing adverse impact; and rural area participation.