New York’s voter registration deadline, which falls 25 days before the election, is perhaps the greatest barrier to voter participation in our state.
The young, people of color and low-income renters — groups that are more likely to change addresses — tend to be disenfranchised by the deadline. Day-to-day obligations may cause them to delay their registration until it’s too late, or they may simply be unaware that they need to re-register to be eligible to vote at their new location.
Eliminating the deadline and allowing same-day registration would boost voter turnout among underrepresented groups and increase overall voting rates, according to Demos, a nonpartisan think tank. Its researchers found that voter turnouts would have increased by 12.3 percent for 18- to 25-year-olds, 11 percent for Latinos, 8.7 percent for African-Americans and 6.8 percent overall if New York State had same-day registration during the 2000 election.
More than 1-1/2 million people in nine states used same-day registration in the 2008 general election. If they forgot to register, had an unforeseen residency change or found their name missing from the rolls, it didn’t matter. They just registered and voted on the spot. New Yorkers ought to have that option too.
Fran Clark is program coordinator of NYPIRG, a research and advocacy non-profit organization focusing on consumer, environmental and government reform.