The New York Civil Liberties Union, American Civil Liberties Union, and the law firm Latham & Watkins LLP challenged New York’s 25-day voter registration cutoff for arbitrarily disenfranchising tens of thousands of eligible voters.
In the 2016 presidential election, 93,649 New Yorkers were unable to vote because they registered after the deadline. New York ranks 47th in voter registration rates nationwide, which contributes to the state’s dismal voter turnout rate. In the 2014 midterm election, New York ranked 49th in the country in voter turnout, with just 29 percent of eligible voters casting a ballot.
Public interest in the people and issues on the ballot peaks in the 25 days before Election Day. Candidates debate each other, new information comes out about their campaign fundraising, endorsements are announced, and ads blanket the airwaves. Yet eligible voters who become motivated to vote by the flurry of electoral activity in the last four weeks of political campaigns find themselves unable to do so because they failed to register prior to the 25-day cut-off. The lawsuit charges that the voter registration cut-off is no longer necessary in the age of computers and needlessly disenfranchises thousands of voters. The suit claims that this disenfranchisement violates the state Constitution’s guarantee of the fundamental right to vote as well as its equal protection clause.
Plaintiffs Nicholas Dinnerstein and the League of Women Voters, an organization whose mission is to increase voter registration and participation, brought the lawsuit to vindicate the rights of thousands of people disenfranchised by the cutoff.