In honor of National Voter Registration Day, I’d like to share a story about my current experience with the board of elections. When I first registered to vote in high school, I had no interest in politics.
This was about 7 years ago.
At the time, I barely knew the difference between a Democrat and Republican. So, I decided that I would register as an independent and wouldn’t be tied down to a particular party. It didn’t matter to me then, because I really did not care. Occasionally, I would go with my mom to vote for local elections, but I ultimately didn’t understand the fundamental importance of voting then. I do now.
Fast forward 5 years. I moved; up the block, but, nevertheless, my address should’ve been changed via voter’s registration.
However, it never did. Luckily, I could vote at my old polling location. I was still a registered independent. In 2016, I voted via absentee ballot because I was living in Orlando, Florida working for the Walt Disney World Resort.
In August 2018, I decided to check my voter status. I was inactive, despite having voted. I realized I needed to change my address and my political party. I did so via the Department of Motor Vehicles website. When the New York State Democratic primaries rolled around last month, I went to my new polling location and was told I couldn’t vote at that location since they did not have my information. I could however, go to my original location vote there via affidavit ballot. I checked my status once again, and noticed my party had not been changed, but my address did. I assumed they would be able to update both changes together.
I recently emailed my county’s board of elections office to try to understand why my party had not changed. According to New York State voting law, the change of party request is processed after the general election. Meaning, it will be processed after the November 2018 Midterm elections. Technically, this doesn’t directly impact my ability to vote during midterms.
It does however, directly impact my ability to vote in the primary election.
New York is considered a closed primary state. Meaning, registered voters must vote within their party.
According to OpenPrimaries.org, nearly 25% of voters are registered as independent- essentially 1/4th of the entire state. Regardless, because NYS is a closed primary state, one fourth of its population can’t vote.
However, it was stated NOWHERE on the New York State Board of Elections website that this party change would take effect after the November 2018 general election.
By August 7th, 2018, I had made my necessary changes online via the DMV portal. The proper information should be readily available to the voter and yet it’s not. Under the Constitution of the United States, voting is a civil right.
Maybe I’m aggravated because it wasn’t stated clearly on the website. The information was not clearly available. It shouldn’t take over three months to change a party status. In the digital age, that seems painfully antiquated and outdated. The shameful thing is that it happens to people all over country. There have been numerous accounts of people who have had their statuses become inactive despite voting in federal, state and local elections.
I encourage everyone to register to vote, because it matters.
If you meet the requirements, there is no excuse to not be registered.
If you notice something odd with your voter status, polling location, etc reach out to your local board of elections office and inquire about it.
If we don’t say anything, we can’t change anything.
It’s counter-productive for such a fundamental part of our democracy to become such a complicated process. At some point, everyone will be impacted by the implications of an election. It doesn’t need to be so overly complicated. The concept of voting is simple, and yet these regulations, deadlines and laws work against us as citizens who want to do our due diligence.
It’s almost like they don’t want us to vote at all.
I live in New York, representing the East coast portion of Words Between Coasts.