NEW YORK, NY (10/12/2017) (readMedia)-- One day before the Friday the 13th deadline, Common Cause/NY, Easy Elections NY, and partners rallied in Halloween costumes and masks in front of the City Hall steps to warn New Yorkers and lawmakers about the impending deadline for party registration in the 2018 primaries. The Board of Elections (BOE) requires that a party registration form not only be postmarked but received by Friday.
"The scariest thing about Friday the 13th is not Jason the Slasher, but the absurd October deadline for the 2018 primaries. Voting is a right -- not a privilege. New Yorkers should not have to jump through hurdles to make their voices heard. We need to hold our legislators' feet to the fire and change this outrageous deadline," said Susan Lerner, Executive Director of Common Cause/NY.
New York State is one of only 11 states to have closed primaries: only registered party members can vote in their own party's primary. New York requires voters who want to change their party enrollment in order to vote in a primary to do so 25 days before the general election of the year before the primary they plan to vote in. This is the earliest deadline to change party enrollment anywhere in the country.
"NYS has become the perfect storm in the abandonment of democracy, with less than 10% of eligible party registrants turning out to vote, and some 3 million non party registrants not allowed to vote. Thus those who can vote, won't, and those who want to vote, can't. Are you listening Mr. Governor?" said George Albro, co-chair of NY Progressive Action Network.
This was a major issue in the 2016 presidential primaries when un-affiliated and 3rd party voters-many Bernie Sanders supporters-tried, and failed, to vote in the April Democratic primary. In New York State alone, 26.8% of voters are not registered with the Republican or Democratic Party, making them ineligible to vote in a typical primary. 37% of voters under the age of 30 in New York City are not regisitered with a political party. This affects members of the Independence, Green, Working Families, and Conservative parties, to name a few.
"New York's party registration deadline to participate in primaries is a burdensome and unrealistic law. The most restrictive in the country by a landslide, it adds to New York's voter apathy, resulting in dismal voter turnout. The law is among many that must change to respect the rights of New York voters and encourage civic engagement," said Julie Kerr, Executive Committee Member of Brooklyn Voter's Alliance.
Last session, a bill to move the deadline to 90 days before the primary was introduced in the New York State Legislature, but did not progress.
New York State lags behind other states in election reform. For example, 37 states already have some form of Early Voting, leaving New York as one of only 13 states without any means to vote early except via absentee ballot. New York does not have any form of Automatic Voter Registration either. Automatically registering eligible voters encourages civic participation, and provides a vehicle for state agencies to efficiently transfer voter registration information to the Board of Elections. 16 states allow post-incarceration voting, which fosters re-entry through civic participation and is easier to administer. Outdated elections is in part why only 29 percent of the state's eligible population voted in 2014, putting New York in the bottom third nationally.
New York State is currently 41st for lowest voter turn-out in the nation.
Easy Elections NY is a statewide coalition of grassroots groups & established organizations fighting to modernize New York's elections. Their goal is to pass simple solutions in 2017 to improve our elections and make registering and voting easier for all New Yorkers.