Voter advocacy groups outline challenges with voter registration due to pandemic

NY Capitol News

ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — As the last day to register to vote in the general election winds down, some voting advocacy groups say new registrations may be down this year compared to the last presidential election.

“Anecdotally, and this should probably be no surprise to anyone, because we are still reliant on a paper-based voter registration system, the numbers are way down. Folks typically will register at their DMV, or any city or state-based agency. And… usually… even your local post office frequently will have voter registration forms lying around,” said Common Cause New York Deputy Director Sarah Goff.

But, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many New Yorkers haven’t been going about their daily lives as normal. Currently, the only way to register to vote online is through the state’s DMV website if you have a valid state issued ID. 

Jennifer Wilson with the League of Women Voters of New York State says that may have an impact on some areas of the state more than others.

“My fear is that it is down in New York City more so than Upstate. I remember, we had a hearing back in July, and we were hearing that it was down like 50%, where we were from the last presidential election. So I definitely think that people who live in the city, they typically don’t have a DMV license because they’re not driving,” Wilson said.

The pandemic has also made it more difficult to hold voter registration drives. 

“We’ve been really limited since we hadn’t been able to have any in-person registration starting from March. We started to do some in-person, in June and July, we started to do some more in person, although now we’re kind of, like, getting back to not doing as many,” Wilson said.

A spokesperson with the New York State Board of Elections did not have any updates to provide Friday on registration numbers.

Wilson says poll worker recruitment does seem to be going well.

“I think it’s due in no small part to the fact that they actually, the state board of elections and county boards, did a recruiting effort this year. We don’t often see them make a concerted recruiting effort. I’ve heard from a lot of young people that they’re going to be poll workers for the first time this year. And that’s super exciting,” Wilson said.

If you are already registered to vote in New York State, but need to update your address, you may do so until October 14.

More local election coverage: Your Local Election Headquarters

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