“I have a question…” began nearly every individual who approached the Common Cause New York voter registration table at the Brooklyn Flea last Saturday. By the end of the day one thing was certain: New York voters are confused. The easy questions to answer? No, you do not need a New York driver’s license of state ID to register. Yes, you need to re-register when you change addresses. Yes, you can check the status of your voter registration on the Board of Elections website.
Why are New York voters so confused? Simply put, New York has one of the most regressive and outdated voting systems in the nation. Thankfully, many are pushing for election reform bills with improvements like electronic poll books, automatic voter registration, expanded early voting, and Election Day as a school holiday. With a modernized system, it will be easier for New Yorkers to participate and feel like their vote matters. My experience this summer clearly showed me how helpful an automatic voter registration system would be. States like Oregon, California, Connecticut, Vermont, and West Virginia have already adopted automatic voter registration, which automatically registers those who have driver’s licenses or state-issued IDs to vote. Anyone automatically registered would be given the option to opt out. For New York, this would mean millions of people would be registered to vote automatically each year.
As a volunteer and coordinator for the summer registration, helping voters has been a rewarding experience. Seeing firsthand how complicated the voting process seems for some people has made me realize just how few New Yorkers feel they can take full advantage of an election. Despite this, there is something extraordinary about helping someone register to vote for the first time, whether they are a young adult or a new citizen. I have a much deeper understanding about the problems plaguing voter turnout in America, something I could not have learned from a textbook.
To address all of the confusion in the meantime, Common Cause New York will answer questions and work to make sure every eligible New Yorker is registered to vote by October 14th, the official deadline for voter registration. We have been busy registering voters across the five boroughs of New York City all summer and will continue into the Fall. For more information on how you can help register voters, click here.
Issues: Voting and Elections