Guest Column

Time to Take Action on Low Voter Turnout

Low voter turnout, particularly among young people, has reached crisis proportions—what will we do about it?

In terms of the percentage of people voting, the United States ranks near the bottom among developed countries in the world; New York ranks 44th among the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Only 41 out of approximately 500 18-year-olds in Yorktown voted in the 2017 election. If we do nothing, we can expect fewer than 20 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds to vote in the coming midterm election. We need a bipartisan effort to increase voter registration.

What will you do about it, our representatives in Albany?

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There are a series of measures being considered to make it easier to register and vote—supported by the nonpartisan League of Women Voters: early voting (in effect in 34 states and the District of Columbia), which would allow people to vote on the 13 days (including two weekends) before the election so people would not have to vote on a workday; same-day registration so people could register to vote up to election day—now you have to register by Oct. 12 to vote on Nov. 6; and automatic voter registration: for example, eligible voters would be automatically registered if they have a driver’s license.

The cost for early voting is only $7 million, four-thousandths of one percent of the $168 billion state budget. There is no evidence that there has been fraud in the 34 states that have adopted similar measures and it is hard to imagine that with less than half of the registered voters actually voting in the last election in New York that there are going to be people who will risk jail time to vote illegally. New York State representatives, what specific actions are you taking to increase voting?

What will you do about it, Yorktown Town Board?

Elected officials from different parties will have different approaches to various issues, but for voter registration, there should be a bipartisan effort to increase participation, particularly for young voters. There may be those who say that this is an attempt by the Democrats to gain an advantage, but this underestimates the sophistication of the Yorktown voters who vote on issues, not party labels. In the last election for supervisor, the Democrat won by 291 votes while the Republican candidate for county executive won by 2,332 votes in Yorktown. And Yorktown is a small town—if there were voter fraud, we would know about it. Please call on our representatives in Albany to join a bipartisan effort to enact voting reform and, Town Board, take the lead in addressing this issue.

What will you do about it, high schools in Yorktown?

Young people who will turn 18 by the end of the calendar year can register to vote now before they are actually 18. With graduating high school seniors concerned about summer jobs and starting college, it would seem that the best time for them to register and learn about the issues would be during senior year of high school. Yet, only 22 out of the approximately 500 high school seniors in town were registered to vote by the end of June last year. What can you do to ensure that all of your seniors are registered by the time they graduate, are informed of the issues, and are motivated to vote in November?

What will you do about it, Yorktowners?

Young voters, parents of young voters, community groups, religious communities, businesses, schools, unions, political parties, elected officials, and the media, what will you do to increase voter participation, particularly the participation of young voters? We need a community-wide effort to tackle this problem! Have posters in store windows, make forms available at your meetings, promote voter registration on your websites and young people, register and brag about it on Instagram; change your Facebook status to “Newly registered voter.” If you are not registered, go to the Department of Motor Vehicles website and register to vote right now:

Members of our Yorktown community, will you commit to this important bipartisan effort? What will you do?

Larry and Mary Jane Killian have lived in Yorktown for 28 years. They are co-chairs of the Issues and Resolutions Committee of the Yorktown Democratic Committee.

The opinions expressed herein are the writer's alone, and do not reflect the opinions of or anyone who works for is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the writer. Click here to submit a Guest Column.

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