New York should automatically register all citizens to vote


Marco Verch Professional Photographer | Flickr

The Editorial Board

Voter registration barriers in New York State make it difficult for citizens to vote. This leads to frustration and distrust in our government.

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, fewer places are offering voter registration forms to be filled out in person, forcing inactive or first-time voters to resort to online registration. In New York, however, citizens are required to have their New York State DMV ID with their current address listed on it.

Without an updated address, voters run the risk of either not receiving their absentee ballots or needing to travel an absurd number of miles to their polling site since polling sites are assigned by proximity to your home address.

According to the DMV, “The U.S. Postal Service does not notify DMV when you change your mailing address.”

This means that unless you manually change your address at the DMV, your New York State issued ID will keep the same address you presented to them when you received it for five to eight years.

It’s also neither quick nor easy to change your address at the DMV. Some people spend hours waiting to speak to a customer service representative before their address change is processed.

To remedy this, the New York State DMV advertises a “less than 5 minutes” address change transaction on their website through their myDMV online portal, but making an online account must be approved first with a confirmation email that some users just never receive.

Another option offered is using your social security number to register to vote online. However, if the zip code you list doesn’t match the zip code that the state has on record for you, your online registration request will be denied.

If your voting address is correct, you may opt to receive an absentee ballot if you are unable to vote in-person on Election Day.

That said, issues that persist in requesting an absentee ballot include losing or receiving a misprinted absentee ballot, a lack of confirmation by mail or email that your ballot has been processed, the inability to track your ballot and difficulty contacting the Board of Elections.

With all of their energy exhausted on these tasks, voters can get discouraged. They may assume that their vote doesn’t matter as much, which can result in not showing up on election day to vote.

The best way to fix this is for New York State to automatically register all of its citizens 18 years and older to vote, regardless of whether or not people choose to. This should increase voter turnout.