Al Stirpe

If voting is one of the cornerstones of our democracy, then we should encourage voters – and future voters – to participate. Every vote matters and it’s important to engage young people; they’re the future of New York and our country, and their involvement in every election is vital.

People under 25 remain one of the least active groups when it comes to casting their ballots. In 2016, a mere 43 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds voted – an especially low number when compared to the nearly 71 percent of those 65 and over. In New York, the number is even lower. Only 38 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds voted in 2016, making it clear that something must change.

If we look at the entire voting process, there are multiple essential steps that culminate in casting our ballot – from eligibility, voter registration, access to voting and finally Election Day. In the Assembly, we’ve worked to expand opportunities for New Yorkers to get out and exercise their right to vote.

One bill that successfully passed the Assembly establishes an online voter registration system, moving our antiquated system to the digital era (A.5382). An eligibility measure that I helped pass also allows 17-year-olds to vote in presidential primary elections if they will be 18 at the time of the general election (A.3549). This is a positive first step toward encouraging voter participation. Another bill I co-sponsored and am working to help pass would allow 16-year-olds to pre-register to vote, making the registration process more efficient when our young New Yorkers reach the age of eligibility (A.1070).

For many of our young adults, job arrangements and diverse lifestyles lead to moving in and around our communities. In order to address situations that can prevent eligible voters from participating in the election process, the Assembly passed a bill automatically transferring voter registration for New Yorkers who move from one county to another (A.3411). Currently, people moving to a new county must reregister – something they may not realize or have time to do.

Other measures that empower young New Yorkers to engage, while keeping up with their hectic work and school schedules include allowing early voting for a week prior to an election and authorizing any New Yorker to obtain an absentee ballot without specifying a reason to do so (A.2064, A.7623).

The most direct step in helping shape our democracy – whether that be at the local, state or federal level – is voting in an election. The Assembly has passed and is currently working on measures to establish an even more accessible, safe and streamlined process.

In order to alleviate the often grueling hours necessary to properly staff poll sites, the Assembly passed legislation permitting poll workers to split shifts (A.6907-A). By not requiring people to commit to working a full day, we can expand the possible pool of workers and encourages more young people to sign up.

For many of our state’s counties, including Onondaga, schools are used as polling sites, creating a chaotic environment for both students and staff as voters filter in and out of the building. A bill that I authored and is currently being reviewed by the Assembly Education Committee, would create a non-instruction day for schools that serve as polling sites on general election days (A.444). This measure would help keep students safe while fostering a disruption-free learning environment. Additionally, the bill would open up a world of opportunities for our communities’ young people; allowing those who are old enough to become election inspectors, cast their vote and watch, first hand, Election Day unfold.

New Yorkers deserve a government that is truly representative of its people. Young and old, every voice should be heard. The steps we take today to inspire our young people to get involved and take a stand will lead to a better tomorrow.

I’ll continue working vigilantly to modernize our dated election system. If you have questions about this or another community issue, please feel free to contact me at StirpeA@nyassembly.gov or by calling 315-452-1115.

By martha

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