The current administration has certainly galvanized citizens from sea to shining sea, awakening the sleeping politico in many, on many sides. As we approach the 2018 midterm elections and—sigh—the 2020 presidential election, each political party hopes to increase their voter registration rolls and then get those folks out to vote.
Before you can vote, you have to be registered. Rules, regulations, deadlines and other red tape vary from state to state. Here in New York, one has a variety of options for registering and must, according to the New York State Board of Elections (elections.ny.gov), meet the following criteria: be a U.S. citizen; be 18 years old by December 31 of the year in which you register; live at your present address at least 30 days before an election; not be in prison or on parole for a felony conviction; not be adjudged mentally incompetent by a court; and not claim the right to vote elsewhere. If you meet all those criteria, here are your registration options: You can register through the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV); in person at your County Board of Elections (700 Yaphank Avenue in Yaphank in Suffolk County); or any New York State agency-based voter registration center (including the DMV). Or you can print out a registration form, in either English or Spanish, from elections.ny.gov and mail it in. Who knew it could be so easy?
But what if you want to go the extra mile and not just register yourself to vote? Participating in, or organizing, a local voter registration drive is the most efficient way to help the most people exercise their right to vote—regardless of their political affiliation. If you’re planning on doing so, there are three things you’ll need in order to get your drive off the ground: a location, volunteers and registration materials.
In order to find a location, think about where people who need to register congregate. College campuses, shopping malls, office buildings, street corners at lunchtime and/or farmers markets are all good places to consider. Once you’ve determined where to set up, call ahead for permission to be there. You don’t want to start any trouble. As for “the when,” keep in mind the deadlines for registration before the next election. You don’t want to cause confusion for the people you’ve registered.
Next you’ll need volunteers. They must be prepared to answer questions from would be voters, so consider giving them a sheet of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ), so they can do so quickly. Also make sure they’re dedicated to the process and enthusiastic about registering their fellow citizen to vote—again, regardless of their political affiliation.
What you need: registration forms, of course—lots of them. They can be printed out at elections.ny.gov and can be photocopied. You’ll also want pens and clipboards; tables and chairs; information about election dates, polling places and voters rights; refreshments; and smiles.
When you’re done, completed forms can be delivered to the County Board of Elections in Yaphank. DO NOT make any changes or corrections to another person’s registration form.
The East End may not seem like the best place to set up a voter registration drive. Statistics prove that as levels of wealth increases, so does the likelihood of one being registered to vote. But we’re not all millionaires and some of us might need a nudge in the right direction when it comes to exercising our rights as citizens.
Consider this from a 2009 study by the Center for American Progress: “In 2020—the first presidential election where all Millennials will have reached voting age—this generation will be 103 million strong, of which about 90 million will be eligible voters.” Many of these Millennials will need to be registered. But the battle doesn’t end there. A recent Tufts University study estimates that only about half of eligible Millennials actually voted in 2016. You can only lead a horse to water.
Tuesday, September 26 is National Voter Registration Day. Rock it!