Easier voter registration equals more voters, politicians say.
State Sen. Mike Gianaris (D-Astoria), Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh (D-Manhattan) and the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law introduced the Voter Empowerment Act of New York bill on June 7.
The bill will automatically register eligible consenting citizens at designated government agencies; permit pre-registration of 16- and 17-year-olds; automatically transfer registrations of New Yorkers who move within the state; provide access to voter registration records and registration of eligible citizens online and allow people to register or change their party later in the election cycle.
“New York State can, and should, be a model for accuracy, efficiency, and confidence in our registration system,” President of the League of Women Voters Sally Robinson said. “More registered voters leads to more voters at the polls on Election Day.”
In 2010, only 36 percent of New York’s citizen voting-age population cast ballots, making the state’s voter registration rate the third worst among states in the country, according to Gianaris’ office.
Computerizing the system could take a burden off election offices, Gianaris said, and thus the proposal could save “the state and its counties hundreds of thousands of dollars per election.”
The current system is error-prone, according to Wendy Weiser, director of the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice.
The legislation could reduce the number of duplicate or outdated registration records and ensure that fewer eligible voters are left off the voter rolls, according to Gianaris.
When a voter wants to change his or her party enrollment that change does not go into effect until the first Tuesday following a general election. As a result, voters wishing to make such enrollment changes may have to wait more than a year for the changes to be implemented. Under the proposed legislation, changes to party enrollment would take effect 10 days after the date on which the changes were applied for.