New York State Democrats continue to make dramatic reforms to state law following their successful election in November 2018. In that sweeping victory, they took control of the Assembly, the Senate and the Governorship. Today, they’re focusing their attention on a new issue: automatic voter registration.
The move is in response to data showing that New York state has one of the worst records when it comes to voter turnout during both national and state elections. Since at least the 2000 Presidential election, when New York had 59 percent turnout, the state has had miserably low voter turnout, even according to the latest federal government data available.
In 2000, the state ranked 35th among states in voter turnout. In 2004 the state moved down to 42nd. During the 2008 election the turnout dropped to 58.8 percent, and dropped one spot to 43rd, and in the 2012 election New York state ranked 39th with 58.7 percent. Even in the last Presidential election in 2016, only 57 percent of eligible voters cast their ballot for the Presidential election which makes it rank 41st in the country.
During the 2018 midterm elections, only 34 percent of registered New Yorkers turned out to vote. This once again solidified New York’s position as one of the worst voter turnout states in the country.
The poor voter turnout is getting the attention from politicians in the Empire state as top Democrat State Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins addressed the situation at a press conference in January 2018. “New York consistently as one of the worst voting turnout states in the nation,” Stewart-Cousins said at a press-conference on January 23rd, 2018. The statement was ranked “True,” on the Politifact lying meter.
Armed with this data, it now seems the Democrats are taking the possibility of using an automatic voter registration system to address low voter turnout. Under the proposed system currently being considered in the state Senate, any individual who goes to a state agency, normally the DMV, would be automatically registered to vote. People would have the option of opting out, instead of opting in to be registered.
If approved, automatic voter registration would be in addition to three other main changes to New York State’s voting system already passed by the Democrats this year. The first change was same day voter registration, the second was to allow mail voting, and the third and final change includes an early voter period of up to ten days for potential voters who can’t vote on election day.
“We know there’s a certain inertia humans have if they actually have to actually initiate something,” Susan Lerner with the government reform group promoting the changes, Common Cause, said. “Once people know they’re registered, a really significant proportion of the population 40 to 50 percent of them, take that invitation and go vote,” Lerner continued.
If approved all of the measures would cost the state board $4 million dollars, and $1.25 million for County election boards. Also, if approved, there is a strong likelihood that opponents will bring court challenges to the changes.
With the strong Democratic Party representation in all three branches of New York state government, the measures are likely to pass as all of the election reforms they have eyed are also being loudly promoted by Democrats nationally in all three aspects of elections, federal, state and local.
The Democratic process should be an easy process to participate in. However, there is some irony in the politicians having to mandate by law to force citizens to participate, when it is the same politicians who have routinely fail to hold up their end of the bargain and keep their grand promises they make during their campaigns.