With the election of 2020 all but behind us, it’s time to look ahead to future elections.
What New Yorkers demonstrated this year is that despite the state’s historically anemic voter turnout numbers, state residents are indeed interested in having a role in selecting our elected officials.
Voter turnout in the 2020 election, about 65.3 percent, represents an improvement over past years.
That improvement can be traced in large part to the sudden expansion of mail-in voting due to the covid crisis and widespread public interest in the presidential election.
Even with those improved turnout figures, the state still ranks near the bottom of all states in terms of the percentage of registered voters per capita.
That can be attributed in large part to obstacles that make it difficult or inconvenient for New Yorkers to register.
Voter registration is particularly low in minority and low-income areas, which disenfranchises those populations and gives them less of a say in how they’re represented in government.
As has been demonstrated in other states, ease of voter registration translates into greater voter engagement and greater voter turnout at the polls.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo can remove a major obstacle to registration and voting in New York by signing the Automatic Voter Registration bill.
The bill (A8280/S8806), which passed both houses of the Legislature in July and is currently awaiting the governor’s signature, would result in New Yorkers being automatically registered to vote when they visit a Department of Motor Vehicles office or another state agency.
Citizens who don’t want to be registered would have to actively opt out.
Once signed by the governor, the bill would go into effect in 2023, allowing New York to join 19 other states and the District of Columbia that have adopted automatic voter registration in the last five years.
The result of this bill could be an additional 2 million additional registered voters in New York. That means 2 million more New Yorkers who otherwise might be excluded having the opportunity to participate in their democracy.
That’s 2 million more New Yorkers, including groups who traditionally haven’t participated in elections, having a say in how their government serves them.
This is important legislation.
Before the fervor over the most recent election dies down, Gov. Cuomo needs to send a strong message about the future of elections in New York by making voter registration in this state automatic.