Dave’s Dialogue: New York Needs Voting Reform

A column by State Senator David Carlucci

Voting gives people the right to choose who leads them. It is a right people long fought for through protests and marches. Some were arrested, and some sadly died fighting for voting equality.

Today voter turnout in New York is continually low, and we have to take a hard look at why that is. First let me say Governor Cuomo’s decision to allow early voting and same-day voter registration in his 2018-2019 executive budget proposal are great steps in the right direction.

New York’s voting laws are woefully outdated and lag behind much of our country. Too many New Yorkers experience unfair and unnecessary restrictions when they wish to exercise their Constitutional right to vote. Unsurprisingly, New York consistently ranks near the bottom in voter turnout when compared to other states. According to 24/7 Wall St., only 59.2 percent (avg.) of eligible NY voters voted in the presidential elections between 2000 and 2012. That makes New York 42nd among the 50 states in voter turnout. As disappointing as these figures are, voter turnout has been even lower in midterm elections.

This dismal state of affairs makes more sense when you consider that New York is one of only 13 states that does not offer early voting. We must join the other 37 states and the District of Columbia (DC) and provide New Yorkers with access to early voting. A recent Siena College poll indicates that 65% of New Yorkers support early voting.

Automatic voter registration (AVR) is another proposal that New York should adopt. AVR allows people to be automatically registered to vote when they interact with the Department of Motor Vehicles. People would no longer have to worry about registration deadlines or application submissions. After witnessing the success of AVR in Oregon, eight (8) other states have approved it. As a firm believer that no citizen should ever be denied his or her Constitutional right to vote, I have fought for legislation to enact AVR since 2015.

If same day voter registration (SDR) is enacted, eligible NY voters could register to vote the same day they go to the polls. This eliminates registration deadlines people may miss. Fifteen states and DC have adopted some form of SDR. In their report entitled “America Goes to the Polls 2016,” Nonprofit VOTE and the U.S. Elections Project claim that same day voter registration “has the most discernible impact on increasing voter turnout.”

For too long, New York voting laws have suppressed voter turnout and have discouraged public participation in governance. I stand by the Governor’s plan to reform voting, and I encourage my fellow elected representatives to enact his proposals.