When Donald Trump confirmed to the hosts on Fox & Friends on Monday that two of his adult children, Ivanka and Eric, would not be able to vote for him in the New York primary, it seemed like one more head-smacking blunder by a disorganized campaign. How could Trump’s own kids forget to register in a state that has become crucial to his bid for the Republican nomination? Their lapse may be easy fodder for Trump’s rivals, but Ivanka and Eric’s plight is engendering far more sympathy from election reformers who are much more familiar with New York’s notoriously restrictive voting laws. “They’re just like a lot of people whom we’re hearing from on a regular basis,” Susan Lerner, the executive director of the state’s Common Cause affiliate, told me. Voting in New York is for early planners, not procrastinators. And that’s especially true for primaries.
The Empire State has no early voting and no same-day registration. Party primaries are open only to registered Democrats or Republicans, and new voters must register at least 25 days in advance in order to participate. What if you were already registered but wanted to change your party registration to vote in a particular primary? Unless you did so by October 9 of last year—more than six months before the April 19 primary—you’re out of luck.
“The unfortunate thing is we are expecting a large number of people to be quite unhappy on April 19 because they won’t be able to vote for the candidate of their choice,” Lerner said.
A reliably blue state in November, New York has been basking in the national political spotlight as a result of its most competitive presidential primary in a quarter century. But the state’s sudden relevance has sparked a crush of angry phone calls to the offices of Common Cause, the League of Women Voters, and other organizations from people who didn’t realize they needed to get their act together sooner. And these aren’t only first-time voters, Lerner said, but independents and party-switchers as well. “We’re hearing from a lot of really well-engaged, well-informed people who were not aware that the deadline was last October 9,” she said. “It’s the earliest one in the country, and there’s no justification for it.”