New York Registration Deadline Prevents Tens of Thousands From Voting

Imagine a national department store chain holding a “Back to School” sale in late July instead of in August. People who show up close to when school actually starts are told, “You’re too late.”

That’s what voting in New York is like. Each election cycle, thousands of New Yorkers are prevented from casting a ballot because of the state’s registration cutoff, which requires voters to register at least 25 days in advance of the election in order for their vote to count.

The 25-day registration cutoff imposes an unnecessary and outdated burden on the right to vote — and we, along with the New York Civil Liberties Union and Latham & Watkins LLP, are suing to change it. Late last night, we filed a lawsuit seeking to strike down this unnecessarily long registration cutoff.

By requiring voters to register almost a month in advance of Election Day, New York forces voters to register before the election even becomes salient to most people and disenfranchises those who don’t.

The entire election machinery is geared toward one big day — Election Day — with public anticipation building every day until then. But New York’s registration cutoff hits before campaign activities heat up. For example, candidate debates, one of the hallmarks of campaign activities, often don’t happen until after New York’s registration deadline.

The consequences are severe. In the 2016 presidential election, more than 90,000 New Yorkers were ultimately not allowed to vote because they had registered after the 25-day cutoff. The registration deadline also deters voters from registering altogether. Every other year, the U.S. Census Bureau conducts a survey which asks unregistered citizens why they didn’t register to vote. In 2016, 13.2 percent of New Yorkers responded that they did not meet the registration deadline. That’s more than 145,000 people.

Perhaps it’s not a surprise that in the November 2016 election, New York had the eighth-worst voter turnout rate in the country, with only 57.2 percent of voting-age citizens participating.

To add insult to injury for disenfranchised voters, the state does not even need the extra time it provides itself. Voter registration lists are computerized and printing happens in mere hours. In fact, when the law was put in place 27 years ago, Gov. Mario Cuomo testified that it would be feasible for New York to have a shorter deadline or even allow for Election Day registration. Many states have shorter registration deadlines than New York, and as many as 17 states and the District of Columbia allow voters to register to vote on Election Day.

While numerous bills have been introduced over the years to move the voter registration deadline so that it comports both with modern election administration and with voter behaviors, the legislature has failed to take those opportunities over and over again. Elected officials can be especially hesitant to pass electoral reform. After all, they got elected through the old regime.

We can’t keep waiting for politicians to do the right thing. The New York Constitution guarantees every eligible voter the fullest and freest opportunity to vote. It’s time to hold the state to this promise.

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Dr. Timothy Leary

They do everything so inefficiently in New York it probably takes 25 days or longer to get people registered.

Anonymous

Texas’ deadline is four weeks ahead of election. When are you coming to help us?

Cary Kittner

Why aren't you suing for the 6 month to 11 month deadline for changing party affiliation in order to vote in the Primary Election? And why aren't you suing because the party affiliation deadline is no where to be found on the voter registration form? And while you're at it, sue to make NY a semi-open primary state so no one has to pledge loyalty to a party in order to vote for the candidate of their choice in a Primary.

Anonymous

It is probably helpful to have a long lead on cutoffs for changing parties. My local Democratic Party was hoodwinked by two candidates this year. They claimed to switch parties, then switched back after the Republican they wanted won in the Republican Party, leaving Dems with no opposition candidate as it was too late to get someone else on board.

Ms. Hamrick

It was in the newspaper and on the news that the deadline to register in NYC was the 17th of October. I registered well before then, having moved from NJ. I call and confirmed I was on the rolls in NY. I got to my local polling place and there was no record of me whatsoever. I insisted upon filling in an affidavit, as the person there was initially reluctant to give it to me. The same thing happened to my elderly mother, who lives with me, and had registered weeks earlier than I. She too called to confirm. How many others did this happen to? How many people walked away without voting at all? Two days after Election Day, I received confirmation from Board of Elections, conforming I was registered as of November 2nd. Smh. This level of incompetence in the 21st Century is shocking.

Susan F. Woll

We need same day registration, and the ability to choose candidates of any party in presidential elections no matter what our party affiliations . I do not understand how one candidate can be be running as a conservative, as a democratic, as a republican, and anindependent all the same time! When I see a candidate do this, this is an automatic no vote in mind for that candidate. Ballot initiatives are often written so that if one is wise/ lucky enough to flip the ballot over one can easily vote yes when meaning to vote no and vice versa.

Anonymous

SC requires registration no later than 30 days before election day. It made an exception in 2018 due to Hurricane Florence, but many people who registered after the usual cut-off date were not in the registration computers. Some were in the printout of registered voters. How can that be? Aren't they in the computer first? SC's registration and voting processes are faulty and should be investigated. I wish you'd help us with this and with our Republican gerrymandered districts. With 45% of South Carolinians voting Democratic, we usually have only one House District that is Democratic. This year we were lucky to add another one. Will you investigate SC? I hope so.

Anonymous

In Ky the cutoff date was 10/09/18

Anonymous

A burden? I call bullshit it's not that hard to register early but just keep making excuses

Anonymous

Register before the deadline next time.

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