Voting Rights and Voter Mobilization
NYPIRG is committed to ensuring that political participation is available and accessible to all eligible New Yorkers. Over the past four decades, NYPIRG’s non-partisan voter mobilization campaign has guarded and fought to expand the rights of voters in New York through community outreach, advocacy, media work and litigation. Our work has resulted in:
- Thousands of new voters registered every year.
- An expansion to the state’s “Motor Voter” law, which requires all state agencies to offer a voter registration option at the point of using the agency.
- Sample ballots available online to help familiarize voters and speed up election day lines.
- Inclusion of email addresses on New York City voter registration forms.
- Student IDs permitted as a form of voter identification and more polling sites on college campuses.
- Published reports detailing conditions at polling sites.
Still, New York’s voter registration and voter participation rates are anemic. A U.S. Elections Project analysis showed New York to have among the five worst turnout rates in the nation among eligible voters. New York must take immediate action to address systematic problems that disenfranchise voters and remove barriers that suppress voter turnout.
NYPIRG supports voter reforms, including:
- Automatic voter registration and automatic updates to enrollment information of citizens interacting with all state and local government agencies.
- Allowing voters to register and vote on Election Day. In the interim, New York State should shorten the registration and change of enrollment deadlines to 10 days before the election, the current minimum under the State Constitution.
- Elimination of the patronage-controlled Boards of Elections, starting with the merit selection of permanent Board employees across the state.
- Facilitating registration updates when a voter moves within the state.
- Allowing 16 and 17 year olds to pre-register to vote.
- Codifying case law with respect to students voting from a campus-area address.
- Guidelines for better ballots. Poor ballot design can affect every voter at a poll site. Miniscule fonts, unnecessary graphics and unreadable directions result in spoiled ballots and longer wait times for all.
- Improved poll worker performance. Voters should come first on Election Day. Unfortunately, for too many, the patronage structure of the Boards puts party loyalty first and public service second. New York can improve poll site conditions immediately by offering time off for state and city employees working the polls, and professionalizing poll worker training so that only qualified and trained staff work the polls.