Election Day registration would boost turnout among young voters in New York City more than almost any other measure, according to new analysis from NYCLU. This new data adds urgency to the campaign to make same-day voter registration a reality in the Empire State.
New Yorkers have long expected 2022 to be the first year in which voters could register and vote at the same time leading up to Election Day. But in November 2021, a disproportionately older electorate delayed this critical reform for at least three years by voting against Ballot 3, which would have allowed same-day registration.
Currently, New York requires eligible voters to register at least 25 days before Election Day — one of the earliest registration deadlines in the country. This deprives tens of thousands of eligible voters every year. Our analysis of voter registration and turnout data shows that ratifying Proposition 3 and enacting Election Day registration would have allowed many more younger voters to vote, and that older voters middle and older were largely responsible for the death of Proposition 3.
Our analysis found:
- 93,649 New Yorkers were unable to vote in the 2016 general election because they registered after the 25-day deadline but before the constitutional 10-day deadline.
- Had Election Day registration been in place in the 2016 presidential primary, more than 70,000 more New Yorkers would have been eligible to vote, 65% of whom were between the ages of 18 and 34.
- 42,628 people – around 30,000 of whom are under 35 – were not eligible to vote in the 2016 primary elections because they registered after the 25-day deadline.
- From 10 to 24 days before the day of the 2016 primary elections – after the registration deadline expired – 40% of those registered to vote were between the ages of 18 and 24.
- In the three months leading up to the 25-day deadline for the 2016 primary election, 43% of those registered to vote were between the ages of 18 and 24 despite making up only about 10% of the 11.5 million voters state registrants.
- Only 3% of New Yorkers who voted in the 2021 general election were between the ages of 18 and 24, and only 8% were between the ages of 25 and 34.
New York’s unique location
A clause in Article II, Section 5 of the New York State Constitution requires all voters to register at least 10 days before an election in order to vote in that election. This provision means that the state legislature cannot set a later deadline for voter registration — but it can and has set an earlier one. The current 25-day deadline was set in May 1991.
As New York’s voter registration deadline has come to a halt as the world has gone digital and online, same-day registration has become a widely adopted and democracy-enhancing practice. Currently, 21 other states and the District of Columbia allow same-day voter registration within 10 days of an election and 19 of those states and DC allow voters to do so throughout Election Day. Studies have consistently shown that election day registration significantly increases voter turnout, especially among younger voters.
In November 2018, NYCLU filed a lawsuit challenging the 25-day deadline for arbitrarily disenfranchising tens of thousands of voters. That lawsuit continues today alongside efforts to advocate for legislative change.
In the coming months, the state legislature could reduce the barrier to youth participation by moving New York’s voter registration deadline from 25 days before the election to the 10-day minimum currently required by the Constitution. . Our new analysis shows that the intermediate step of moving to a 10-day limit would have a significant positive impact on youth voter turnout. Election day registration would have an even greater effect.
Registration deadline cuts out young voters
In the lead up to an election, young people register to vote at much higher rates than other age groups because many young people who are registered have just turned 18, just moved into the state or are s register for the first time.
Our analysis shows that in the three months leading up to the 25-day deadline for the 2016 primary election, 43% of those registered to vote were between the ages of 18 and 24, compared to only about 10% of the 11 .5 million registered voters in the state. During the same period, 26% of registered voters were between the ages of 25 and 34, and people aged 35 or over accounted for only 30% of new voter registrations.
Young people continue to register at high rates after the 25-day deadline, mainly for two reasons. First, the voter registration deadline is not common knowledge, especially for people who may be registering to vote for the first time and who are new to the election bureaucracy.
Second, New York’s 25-day voter limit ends registration before the period when the election gets the most publicity. A recent analysis found that in the 2018 and 2020 elections, the number of news articles mentioning New York candidates more than tripled in the 24 days leading up to the election compared to the 50 days leading up to the New York general election. 2018 and the 2020 primary elections.
In other words, when the public becomes interested in the upcoming election, it may be too late for potential New York voters to register. This is especially true for low turnout and off-cycle election years when the election news cycle is even shorter.
The number of young people who register to vote after the 25-day deadline and who are not eligible to vote on Election Day because of it is huge. From 10 to 24 days before the day of the 2016 primary elections – after the registration deadline expired – 40% of those registered to vote were between the ages of 18 and 24.
In the 2016 primary election, 42,628 people – around 30,000 of whom are under 35 – were barred from voting because they registered after the 25-day deadline. If the state legislature reduces the 25-day deadline before the election to 10 days, it will enfranchise tens of thousands of voters in every election.
A later voter registration deadline will have an even greater impact in general elections when voter turnout is higher. An analysis of the 2016 presidential election estimates that 93,649 New Yorkers were unable to vote because they registered after the 25-day deadline but before the constitutional 10-day deadline.
Election Day registration would be a game-changer
While it is helpful to move the registration deadline to 10 days before the election, registering on election day will allow many more eligible voters to vote in each election.
Had Election Day registration been in place in the 2016 presidential primary, more than 70,000 more New Yorkers would have been eligible to vote, 65% of whom were between the ages of 18 and 34.
Voters 35+ Killed Prop 3
Prop 3 was defeated by a majority middle-aged and older electorate.
In most elections, voters tend to be older than the general population. However, the 2021 general election was an extreme case. Only 3% of New Yorkers who voted in the 2021 general election were between the ages of 18 and 24, and only 8% were between the ages of 25 and 34. In other words, 89% of voters were 35 or older. Sixty-two percent of voters were 55 or older.
The path to follow
After the Prop 3 defeat, the next chance New Yorkers will have to vote on the Constitutional Amendment — which is the first step in implementing Election Day registration — is November 2024.
Until then, the NYCLU and other voting rights groups are lobbying lawmakers to cut the registration deadline from 25 days to 10 days.
Young voters should be an essential part of this fight. We will need to organise, advocate together and vote to make these reforms happen.
A note on methodology:
Findings on voter registration by age group and registration period are based on an analysis of 2017 registration records from the New York State Board of Elections dataset. All ages are calculated as of the day of the 2016 presidential primary election (April 19, 2016). In addition, only people aged 18 or over on polling day are included in the analysis. Voter registrations that were purged from state voter records or rendered “inactive” prior to January 2, 2017 are not included in the results. Note that “registration” refers to people registering for the first time in New York State or people re-registering because they moved to another county.
The results on voter turnout by age group come from an analysis of electoral records in 2019, 2021 and 2022. The number of votes present in the electoral material does not perfectly correspond to the number of votes compiled by the Board of Elections of New York State. For example, 3,281,972 (95%) of the 3,441,110 votes cast in the 2021 general election were analyzed. Ninety-seven percent and 93 percent of votes were analyzed in the 2020 and 2016 general elections, respectively.