Take a moment to open Google, and search “worst election laws in the country.” The state that comes up over and over again isn’t Georgia or Florida, which disenfranchised thousands of voters this past cycle. It’s not Ohio, where “the purge” is more than just a movie. It’s not even North Dakota, which instituted one of the toughest voter ID laws in the nation.
It’s New York. Home to 11.5 million voters — more than the entire populations of 43 states from Georgia to Wyoming.
Yet, voting in New York is one of the most difficult activities to do, which is silly, since it should be one of the easiest.
For years, we have received lip service from our elected leaders reassuring us that something will be done. Voter registration will be streamlined. The ability to change parties will be simplified. Voting absentee easier. More days to vote in advance of the election.
These are all things found in many states — including those that received bad press over the recent midterm elections — but not in New York.
Voting requires you to be a U.S. citizen at least 18 years old. Nothing wrong with that, it’s similar to any other state. But that’s where New York starts to diverge. After that, you must have lived in the county, city or village you’re voting in for at least 30 days (except for when it comes to voting for the president, then this requirement is waived).
If you meet all that criteria, great. Go online and ... download a form, which you have to print out, and then mail in. That’s right: You can’t register online.
If you don’t have a printer (or a computer), you can trudge out to a local elections board office on the fifth floor of a building on the Grand Concourse. Or you can head over to your local DMV office, so long as you are applying for or renewing your driver’s license or state ID card.
Sure, you can look for other state agencies that also can help you vote, but expect to do a lot of running around.
When it comes time to vote, however, it’s one day, and one day only. Would rather avoid the lines at the ballot box? Plan a trip outside the city or be able to prove you’re going to be sick (seven days before the election), or get arrested, and then mail in that appropriate form.
Our elected leaders in Albany are on notice: There is nowhere else to hide. Yes, Republicans controlled the senate, there is not a lot of extra money in the budget, yadda, yadda. But all that has changed, and we seem to be able to find money for anything else important to our Assembly members and senators.
Election reform must be a top priority, because voting is not just a right — it’s a responsibility that each and every one of us has. And nothing should impede us from exercising it.