27 Percent of New York’s Registered Voters Won’t Be Able to Vote in the State’s Primary

In June 2013, North Carolina passed the most sweeping voting restrictions in the country, requiring strict voter ID, cutting early voting and eliminating same-day registration, pre-registration for 16 and 17-year-olds, and out-of-precinct voting, among other political reforms. The state defended its cutbacks in court last summer by invoking, of all places, New York.

“The state of New York has no early voting as opposed to North Carolina that has ten days of early voting,” lawyer Thomas Farr said. “The state of New York has no same-day registration. The state of New York has no out-of precinct voting. The state of New York has no preregistration.”

It was a cynical defense of North Carolina’s law—North Carolinians don’t deserve to suffer because a state five hundred miles away has different laws—but it was still unnerving to hear a Southern state invoke a progressive Northern state to rationalize making it harder to vote.

The fact is, New York does have some of the worst voting laws in the country.

New York has no early voting (unlike 37 states), no Election Day registration (the state constitution requires voters to register no later than 10 days before an election) and excuse-only absentee balloting (voters have to prove they’ll be out of town or have a disability.)

The voter registration deadline for the April 19 primary closed 25 days beforehand, when no candidate had even campaigned in New York, and independent or unaffiliated voters had to change their party registrations by October 9, 193 days before April 19, to vote in the closed Democratic or Republican primaries. This will disenfranchise nearly 30 percent of New Yorkers, including, most famously, the Trump children, who didn’t change their registrations from Independent to Republican in time.

It’s easy to poke fun at the ignorance of Trump’s kids, but 3 million registered New Yorkers won’t be able to vote in the state’s primary because they are not affiliated with the Democratic or Republican parties. Open primaries and Election Day voter registration, which also increases voter turnout by up to ten percent, would solve this problem.

Moreover, New York is holding three primaries this year, as Chris Hayes noted—April 19 for president, June 28 for Congress and September 13 for state and local offices—which seems designed to keep voter turnout low for local elections. New York ranked 44th in voter turnout in 2012 and similarly low on the Center for American Progress’s “Health of State Democracies” index, receiving a D- for accessibility to the ballot.


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