An article in the New York Times shortly after the 2009 election for County Executive indicated that four years ago, fewer than 160,000 people out of the 537,458 registered voters cast their ballots for County Executive.
I predict that on Tuesday, when voters cast their ballot for County Executive voter turnout will continue to be light. Most people who can vote won't bother to cast their ballots.
It's bad for democracy when the majority of voters don't bother to show up. It's also bad for democracy when many eligible voters don't even bother to register to vote.
I have a suggestion: New York State should do what Idaho, Maine, Montana, Connecticut, California, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Washington, D.C., and Wyoming already do and allow voters to register to vote on election day.
States that have changed their law and allowed same-day voter registration have seen voter turnout increase by 4-7 percent. The reasons are obvious:
The reasons why same day registration works: as it gets closer to election day there is more media attention, last minute contacts with candidates. More voter interest.
Minnesota started offering voter registration in the polling place on election day in 1974. In Presidential election years, more than 500,000 voters register and vote on election day in that state.
Same-day registration would allow allows hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers who may have moved just prior to the election or who need to update their registration to do so on Election Day.
Same-day voter registration also appeals to young voters 18-30 who are less likely to vote than older voters.
An issue that could come up is verification. In Minnesota, same-day registrants provide proof that they currently reside in the precinct and sign an oath that they are eligible.Their data is verified with the Division of Vehicle Services and/or the Social Security Administration, the Department of Corrections, and the Department of Public Safety.
Local election officials check to be sure that no one voted more than once and send a non-forwardable postcard to verify their addresses.
If any of these checks indicate that there’s a problem, county election officials are required to forward the information to the county attorney for further investigation and possible prosecution for a felony-level offense.
Paul Feiner is Greenburgh town supervisor.