• October 22, 2019
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Queens Chronicle

Early voting expands our rights

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Posted: Thursday, September 26, 2019 10:30 am | Updated: 12:25 pm, Thu Oct 3, 2019.

It’s about time New York State made a serious move toward enabling more people to exercise their right to vote, one of the most fundamental rights we have as Americans — arguably the most fundamental. Without it, there’s no democracy.

Oddly enough for a progressive state whose very name equates to “cutting edge” in so many ways, New York is notoriously bad at enabling people to vote. Deadlines to register when moving here from another state, or when changing parties, are so arbitrary they seem designed to suppress the franchise. And, until now, the state did not allow in-person early voting.

But finally, New York is joining the 38 other states — that’s more than a two-thirds supermajority — as well as the District of Columbia, that allow it. In-person voting for this year’s Nov. 5 elections will actually begin on Oct. 26. That means a lot of people who would not be able to vote because they could not get time off from work, for example, now will be able to.

Couldn’t they just have used absentee ballots? you might ask. No. New York is also one of the states that insists voters give a reason when requesting absentee ballots, such as being out of town on Election Day, having a disability that interferes with voting in person or being locked up by the authorities.

The restrictions are doubtlessly one of the reasons, though hardly the only one, that turnout is so low in our elections. Not only does that mean that a very small percentage of people can put someone in office but that the most cynical among us then view that person as having less legitimacy than he or she would have otherwise. That can especially be true in our virtually one-party city, where elections are often effectively decided by small pluralities in crowded Democratic primaries. Republicans today rarely stand a chance outside of a few select areas, even in Queens.

Under the new law, 15 polling places in our borough will open ahead of Election Day. It’s a welcome reform, and one that we hope will drive a trend to reduce other barriers to voting that remain.

Welcome to the discussion.