State Senator Michael Gianaris, Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh and the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law joined with good government and advocacy groups on June 7 to announce the introduction of the Voter Empowerment Act of New York, a nonpartisan initiative to increase voter participation as the 2012 election season commences. This legislation would amend the election law to update, streamline and make more efficient the voter registration process in New York. Currently, the single biggest barrier to voting is our antiquated registration system. The proposed bill would improve New York’s voter participation by automatically registering citizens to vote with their consent and updating their registration information when they interact with specific government agencies. It would also computerize the entire registration process, reducing typographical and clerical errors that come with hand-written registration documents and making it easier for eligible voters to register.
In addition, it would allow 16- and 17- year-olds to preregister in advance of their 18th birthday, thus incentivizing more voters to go to 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. In an election year, it is crucial for New Yorkers to be reminded of the importance of voter registration and voting whenever possible.
Updating New York’s registration system will remove unnecessary burdens on New Yorkers, ease election administration burdens for the state and county boards of elections, improve the accuracy of the voter rolls, and ultimately increase the number of eligible voters who are registered in the state. The legislation would reduce the number of duplicate or outdated registration records and ensure that fewer eligible voters are left off the voter rolls.
“As election season approaches, government bureaucracy continues to impede too many people from voting,” Gianaris said. “Our proposal would remove these obstacles and maximize voter turnout while saving the state and its counties hundreds of thousands of dollars per election, thus preventing disenfranchisement and enabling better record keeping.”