The importance of voter registration

Written by Adele Marchant, Common Cause New York intern on June 29, 2016

"This is not a conversation for the back burner," Assemblywoman Latrice Walker said about voting rights at the Brooklyn NAACP Voter Engagement Conference on a recent Saturday morning.

With panels of accomplished attorneys, politicians, and civil rights activists, members of the Brooklyn community gathered to discuss the NAACP Brooklyn Votes campaign and efforts to engage voters throughout the greater New York City area. They also discussed the Federal Voting Rights Act and the Shelby County v. Holder U.S. Supreme Court decision, which ends the preclearance of election procedures in certain jurisdictions (including New York City) and opens the door for more restrictive voting practices. As Esmeralda Simmons of the Center for Law and Social Justice at Medgar Evers College said, New York state is "the most efficient voter suppression system in the U.S." Attorney Simmons detailed instructions and advice on New York’s Voter Registration documents, outlining which parts cause trouble for registration, how to fill them out correctly, and even the best way to get them to the Board of Elections office in order to get recorded in time for the election (she says to not send them by mail but to deliver them by hand).

I did not fully grasp the retrogression of voting rights in the U.S. or the difficulties one faces when trying to take advantage of their right to vote. Attending this conference was excellent  preparation for Common Cause New York’s voter engagement efforts later this summer. It can be easy to assume retrogressive voting practices are a thing of the South, but in reality they happen in our own back yard just as frequently. It was was energizing to be part of a group of leaders gathered together with the goal of uplifting their community politically and spreading awareness of the restrictive voting practices in our midst and our future if we do not do something about it. As Assemblywoman Walker said, "politics is not a spectator sport," so we must use our voice to help those without one.

Common Cause NY is planning voter registration work to register voters at farmer's markets and flea markets in Brooklyn, Queens, and Manhattan in July and August. I am eager to make a direct impact on the upcoming election by engaging more people in democracy and their right to vote. Given the turmoil in New York City this election year, our efforts are very important to ensure everyone is correctly registered to vote in time for November 8th. After listening to the speakers this weekend, I now understand the magnitude of dangers to voting rights and how desperately New Yorkers need to make their vote count this year.

Sign up to help register voters this summer today!

Office: Common Cause New York

Issues: Voting and Elections

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