Auburn Citizen: NY lawmakers to OK automatic voter registration

Originally published in Auburn Citizen

New York is closer to becoming the 20th state to adopt an automatic voter registration system. 

The Democratic-led state Legislature has reached an agreement on legislation that will be considered this week. The bill would allow New Yorkers to be registered to vote when they interact with a state or local agency. 

The list of agencies that would participate in the automatic voter registration system includes the state Department of Motor Vehicles, the state Department of Health, the state Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance, the state Department of Labor and the Office of Vocational and Educational Services for Individuals with Disabilities. 

County and city social services departments, along with the New York City Housing Authority, would be included as participating agencies. 

New Yorkers who are eligible to vote and interact with those agencies would be automatically registered unless they choose to opt out. Individuals who aren't eligible to vote wouldn't be registered and agencies would be prohibited from relaying applications to the state Board of Elections. 

State Sen. Michael Gianaris, who is the sponsor of the bill in the Senate, believes the proposal would make it easier to vote in New York. 

"With approximately 2 million eligible voters not currently on the rolls, automatic registration will make a huge difference in increasing our state's voter participation," Gianaris, D-Queens, said. 

Many of the states and the District of Columbia that have an automatic voter registration system use a similar model that New York seeks to implement. A few states, including Oregon, send a notice to residents informing that they will be registered to vote unless they choose to opt out. 

Dustin Czarny, the Democratic elections commissioner in Onondaga County, told The Citizen Tuesday that he believes it will help the state address its "lagging voter registration problem." 

"By switching to an opt-out system, more voters will be registered and we will have more accurate voter rolls than ever before," he said. "This will lead to more participation and less chance of disenfranchisement."

Read the full story on the Auburn Citizen here.