2010-12-24 / Editorial/Opinion

Why New Yorkers Don’t Vote

In the recent mid-term elections, New York ranked 47th of the 50 states and the District of Columbia in average voter turnout. That is not something to be proud of. Experts say that there are several variables that keep those in New York State, and particularly in New York City where the average turnout was even worse, from voting: the difficulty in registering to vote; the size of the type on the ballot; and the crowds at voting precincts. We would add one other factor, perhaps more important that the others. Many voters say that they didn’t vote because they didn’t perceive that any of the candidates – Democrats or Republicans – were people they wanted to see in public office. That would explain relatively high votes for the guy who thinks the rent is too damn high and the woman who admitted that she was a madam and added that it takes a madam to keep track of all the political whores in Albany. It would be funny if it weren’t so sad. While there is little any individual can do to reform the major parties and drive them to choose viable candidates, there are some changes that can be made in the process that might bring more people to the polls. Presently, the state’s cutoff date for registration is 25 days prior to the election and it takes a year to change a registration from one party to another or from one address to another. With computers, we should be doing better. Voters should be able to register within 10 days of the vote and a change should take no more than 20 days. By law, the entire ballot must be on one page. Now, with multiple parties and multiple-candidate primaries, that does not work. The printing on the ballot just becomes extremely small, even with the aid of specialized equipment. The law has to be changed so that a ballot can sprawl over two or more pages. In many states, voters who will not be available on the Tuesday election day can vote early by going to voting centers to cast their ballots. In some of those states a large percentage of voters cast their ballots prior to Election Day. New York should allow for that as well. New York State has more than 13 million people eligible to vote, according to George Mason University, which follows such things. Only 31 percent managed to do that on November 2. The legislature should act quickly to remediate the problems before next November’s election.

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