Why is it so hard to vote in New York?



  • • It’s no surprise, therefore, that there is no early voting, no automatic voter registration, no no-excuse absentee balloting, no same day voter registration, no voter preregistration, and no statewide voter portability.  Even citizens on parole, who are working and paying taxes, are not allowed to vote.

New York needs a new constitutional amendment enshrining:

  • • Early voting
  • • Same day registration
  • • Automatic voter registration
  • • No excuse absentee balloting
  • • Parolee voting
  • • Student preregistration


In addition, in New York, like 26 other states, the amendment should say elections should be “free and equal.” All these items are simply a means to make it easier for citizens to register and vote.

What do you think?

• “A U.S. Elections Project analysis showed New York to have among the five worst turnout rates in the nation among eligible voters.” – www.nypirg.org/vote

• “Any law that makes it easier to vote is a good law; any law that makes it harder to vote is a bad law,” said Schneiderman, in a statement Wednesday. “New York has long been a bastion of democracy, but our state’s current system of registration and voting is an affront to that legacy.” – Gotham Gazette, quoting Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, February 9, 2017.

• “With outdated voting systems causing problems and confusion at the polls, automatic registration offers a new way out of the voting wars, and a much-needed reprieve from the partisan bickering plaguing our political debate.” –Adam Gitlin, Moyers & Company.

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Suffrage (Language from the 1894 Amendment)

[Qualifications of voters]

Section 1. Every citizen shall be entitled to vote at every election for all officers elected by the people and upon all questions submitted to the vote of the people provided that such citizen is eighteen years of age or over and shall have been a resident of this state, and of the county, city, or village for thirty days next preceding an election. (Amended by Constitutional Convention of 1938 and approved by vote of the people November 8, 1938; further amended by vote of the people November 2, 1943; November 6, 1945; November 6, 1961; November 8, 1966; November 7, 1995.)

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According to legal expert Jeffery Toobin in The New Yorker, New York “is one of only thirteen states that has no provision for early voting, and instead employs the archaic practice of giving voters only two choices: show up at the polls on Election Day or vote by absentee ballot.”

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Even very simple language in a state constitution can have profound affects for protecting people’s rights to vote.  As University of Kentucky College of Law  Professor Joshua Douglas has noted:

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A05312 Summary,” sponsored by Assemblyman Michael Cusick, New York State Assembly, February 8, 2017.

Americans in 37 States Love Early Voting. Why Not New York?” New York City Campaign Finance Board, April 28, 2016.

Attorney General Unveils Sweeping Reform Package,” by Rachel Silberstein, Gotham Gazette, February 9, 2017.

Automatic Motor-Voter Registration Now Law in Four States,” by Adam Gitlin, Bill Moyers & Company, May 9, 2016.

Automatic Voter Registration,” The Brennan Center for Justice, September 22, 2016.

Automatic Voter Registration in Oregon a Huge Success,” by Jonathan Brater, The Brennan Center for Justice, April 8, 2016.

Decision 1997: Constitutional Change in New York, Gerald Benjamin and Henrik Dullea (ed.)

Early Voting: What Works,” by Diana Kasdan, The Brennan Center for Justice, October 31, 2013.

Felon Voting Rights,” National Conference of State Legislatures, September 29, 2016.

Governor Wolf, Secretary Cortés Celebrate Tremendous Success of Online Voter Registration,” Pa.gov press release, October 12, 2016.

Maryland Early Voting, Question 1 (2008),” Ballotopedia.

Millions to the Polls: Pre-Registration of 16 and 17-Year Olds,” by J. Mijin Cha, Liz Kennedy, Demos, February 18, 2014.

New York Had the Second-Lowest Voter Turnout So Far This Election Season,” by Ari Berman, The Nation, April 20th, 2016.

New York Needs Election Reform Now” Citizen Union, 2009.

Online Voter Registration,” Ballotopedia.

The Problem with Voting Rights in New York,” by Jeffery Toobin, The New Yorker, October 11, 2016.

Permanent Portable Registration,” Project Vote.

Public Opinion and Election Reform: Valence Issues vs. Choice Issues” by Paule Gronke, Cal Tech, May, 15, 2009.

Small Investments, High Yields: A Cost Study of Same Day Registration in Iowa and North Carolina,” by  Laura Rokoff and Emma Stokking, Demos, February 2012.

Study Claims Online Voter Registration Contributed ‘Significantly’ To Higher Youth Registration,” by Gregory Ferenstein, TechCrunch, December 28, 2012.

Task Force on Election Modernization: Voting in New York in the 21st Century, 2002.

To Protect the Right to Vote, Look to State Courts and State Constitutions,” by Joshua A. Douglas, American Constitution Society for Law and Policy, August 2015.

VRM in the States: Portability,” Brennan Center for Justice, January 16, 2014.

Voting Rights Restoration Efforts in New York,” Brennan Center for Justice, October 6, 2016.

Voting in California,” Ballotpedia.

We’re No. 49: Report Pegs NY as Having Some of the Worst Voter Turnout in 2014,” by Matthew Hamilton, Albany Times Union, March 19, 2015.