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Legislative Memo: State College Voter Registration

Subject: A.1168/ Dinowitz et al.

AN ACT to amend the election law, in relation to designating the state and city universities of New York as participating agencies for voter registration form distribution and assistance, and permitting independent institutions of higher education to do the same upon request.

Position: SUPPORT

This bill would allow New York state and city universities, and private colleges upon request, to participate as agencies of the ‘motor voter’ program. The electoral process is the basis of our representative democracy, yet rates of voter participation are disappointingly low. We believe that any step that helps reverse trends of waning participation in electoral politics will strengthen governmental integrity. For this reason the NYCLU supports A.1168.

Sadly, voter participation rates are declining; over recent years barely reaching fifty percent, oftentimes not. These trends are even more disturbing when broken into age brackets, with the youngest sector of the population participating the least. The motor voter law, by increasing the accessibility of voter registration forms, has proved to be a success in registering more voters. The extension of such access to state and city colleges and universities would be an important step in increasing participation of younger generations. Many students are unaware that re-registration is required with a change of address, or are ignorant of the procedures for filing an absentee ballot while away at school. This bill would work to combat this lack of knowledge. It would also solve the problems of students who either lack transportation or face significant time constraints in getting to voter registration offices.

Institutions of higher education are ideal locations for the expansion of motor voter agencies. The educational experience prepares youth with the skills needed to fulfill their role as citizens, and this is an ideal time to encourage them to undertake that role by registering to vote. In a democratic society, civic participation ensures fair and responsive governing that meets the needs of society. Younger generations, as the future of our country, should be actively encouraged to participate in government, and the importance of voting to that participation cannot be overlooked. The NYCLU strongly supports the passage of this bill.

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