This policy is the future of voting.
Automatic Voter Registration is the best way to move forward, and especially since registering voters in person is no longer an option in COVID-19, we should be pushing governments to accept ways for their citizens to participate in Democracy without having to miss out on registration to vote & to be able to vote without having to fill out encumbering forms. According to the left-leaning Data for Progress, this policy comes with host of benefits and municipalities are set to save money and ensure the access to ballot box if they choose to ‘opt in.’
During my last semester in college, I spent most of my time serving in Baruch Undergraduate Student Government and registering young people to vote in conjunction with Headcount and the New York City Mayor’s Office. I went to festivals, conferences and I even held voter registration events during Soup Kitchen hours at Holy Apostles.
I learned so many ways in which paper registration forms are cumbersome to carry and it’s even harder for students to register through the DMV since their online portal is hard to use. In perhaps the most consequential election year of our lives, we need to make the ballot box easier for people to access and ensure that we put in certain measures so that everyone has a voice.
Some of them are:
- Automatic Voter Registration.
- Crafting new legislation to meet the needs of a contemporary New York.
- Having to change party affiliation a year in advance.
Data For Progress
This group aims to shine on just how easy it can become to become automatically registered to vote and how someone can choose to ‘opt out’ if they don’t want to participate in Democracy.
New York needs to modernize its voting systems in order to protect and expand access to the polls NOW. If our state wants to continue to claim itself as a progressive model for the country, its voting laws should reflect that reality. That’s why it’s time to pass automatic voter registration or AVR. AVR is a simple change where when you interact with a state agency like the DMV or Department of Health, your current information is used to either automatically register you to vote or update your registration if you’ve moved. All the data is handled electronically on secured servers to ensure that our voting rolls are safe and that you never have to worry about being turned away from a polling place and not having your voice heard. Automatic voter registration has been implemented across the country with bipartisan majorities in red states, purple states and blue states.
They further go on to note that because of voter purges, like the one that happened in Brooklyn during the 2016 primaries, that it is more important than ever ensure that we secure our elections and have our voting rolls on a more accurate level.
Data for Progress also conducted a poll in which 64% of respondents said that they would support a measure to make voting easier and this poll was conducted in 2018 with respondents from every Senate district.
How many barriers to voting are there in New York State?
There are many restrictions that limit the average New Yorker to be able to participate in their democracy. With elections that have recently been decided by narrow margins, it is critical that we not only expand Ranked Choice Voting beyond New York City, we need to make sure that it also applies to Presidential primaries as well, so that if a candidate wins a state but drops out before the convention, there can be some protocol in place to ensure that people still have a say in who should be the second runner up.
In New York State, we’re still doing things with pen and paper. Data for Progress notes that the barriers to voting are:
- Our voting laws are among the most antiquated in the nation, with restrictions that are uniquely burdensome to voters.
- New York law requires voters to change their party registration more than a year before Election Day if they want to participate in a party primary.
- Additionally a barrier to voting by mail is that you need to provide an excuse for why you need an absentee ballot mailed to you instead of just automatically getting it in the mail and being able to send the ballot back.
Some of the concerns surrounding the vote by mail push, according to Gotham Gazette was:
“Among the concerns from advocates about the possibility of full-on vote-by-mail are that the local BOEs may only mail ballots to active voters registered with political parties in the state, and miss the more than 970,000 ‘inactive’ voters who are nonetheless registered to vote with party affiliation. (In total, counting voters with no party affiliation, there are 11.7 million active and 1.2 million inactive voters in New York.) Mailed ballots would not make special accomodations for the visually impaired or be an effective substitute for translation services at poll sites. The ballots may also fail to reach the mass of New York residents who have chosen to shelter outside the state or populations like college students who are now living at home.”
Only recently did the New York City Board of Elections come into the future with their online absentee request portal through which residents of the city can have an Absentee ballot request form mailed directly to their residence so they can limit their exposure to the outside world and not have to vote in person.
Another benefit to ensuring AVR becomes a reality its low cost of implementation for the Board of Elections. Data for Progress estimates that with AVR, the cost of bureacrats to input new registered voters will become minimal.
“AVR policies have proven successful in states across the country. In Oregon, the first state to pass and implement AVR, 94 percent of individuals who interacted with the DMV and were eligible to vote were registered. Additionally, across the country, localities have saved an average of about $3.54 in costs per registration by moving from a paper to an electronic method. One study in Arizona showed that it costs $0.83 of staff time to enter a paper voting application into the system, compared to just $0.04 with an electronic system.”
What you can do to ensure we can pass Automatic Voter Registration
New York State Senate bill S1278 is the bill that would enable voters to be automatically registered and work with NYS agencies to ensure everyone has a say in their democracy.
NY State Senate Bill S1278
See Assembly Version of this Bill: Current Committee: Senate Elections Law Section: Election Law Laws Affected: Add…
The latest update to this bill was when it was referred to the Elections committee and is currently in committee as of May 5th, 2020. Reaching out to your New York State Senator to encourage them to vote in favor of it would be a step in the process of making the ballot box open + accessible.
Due to the pandemic, it is unknown when the legislature will put in place protocols for voting on bills and whether NYS will have the infrastructure to support this bill. But it doesn’t hurt to try.
One thing for sure though, this bill has the potential to move New York forward and provide us with more unique options when it comes to voting in 2020.
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