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Opinion

NY voters deserve better

A man wears

A man wears "I Voted?" sticker during New York City's primary election in September. Photo Credit: EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock / JUSTIN LANE

Some New Yorkers know that Oct. 12 is the deadline to register to vote in November’s elections. But what most people probably don’t realize is that it is also the deadline to change your party registration if you want to vote in a party primary next year.

If that sounds absurd, it is. For all its progressive values, New York State has some of the most backward voting laws in the nation. That must change.

Every single other state in the country provides a deadline to switch party registration that is significantly closer to primary elections.

New York falls short in other areas when it comes to enabling civic engagement. For instance:

  • New York is the only state that has separate primary elections for federal, state and local offices. This confuses voters, and it is also a colossal waste of taxpayer money.
  • Thirty-seven states have some form of early voting, which allows working people, parents, seniors and students to vote at a time that is convenient for them.
  • Twelve states and the District of Columbia have automatic voter registration, increasing the reliability and security of voter rolls.
  • Thirteen states and the District of Columbia allow 16- and 17-year-olds to preregister, increasing the likelihood of participation among young adults.

Despite repeated demands by the public, the New York State Legislature hasn’t adopted any of these reforms, which have boosted voter participation in other states.

In the 2016 presidential election, states that actively encourage voter participation — including Minnesota, Maine and New Hampshire — had turnout rates of nearly 70 percent. States, including New York, that make it more complicated to vote, had turnout rates below 50 percent.

Our elected officials like to tout New York as a progressive leader, without taking the steps to make it a reality. When the State Legislature convenes next year, it must implement voting law reforms that will protect and expand the freedom to vote here in New York.

In the meantime, if you are not registered to vote, visit the state Board of Elections website today for guidance at www.elections.ny.gov/votingregister.html, or call the board at 1-800-FOR-VOTE.

Betsy Gotbaum is the executive director of Citizens Union, a nonprofit good-government group.

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