With a New York voter participation rate that ranks 47th in the nation over the last three federal elections, a number of organizations in Nassau County worked diligently to help eligible citizens register before the Oct. 12 deadline and to raise voter awareness.
According to a study by Nonprofit Vote, New York had the fourth lowest turnout among eligible voters, 35.6 percent, for the 2010-midterm elections. In 2008, for the last presidential election, New York ranked 43 among all states in voter turnout.
“It’s the core of our democracy,” said Liz Boylan, a member of the League of Women Voters, a nonpartisan organization that encourages active participation in the elections. “If you want to be heard, that’s the way you do it. But you can’t be heard if you’re not registered and don’t vote.”
According to the Nassau County Board of Elections there are currently more than 322,000 Republicans registered, more than 255,000 Democracts registered and more than 198,000 independent voters registered.
According to Boylan, the LOWV held events to register voters ahead of the deadline, which was Oct. 12. The LOWV Central Nassau chapter held multiple events at Adelphi University and last April helped register seniors at South Side High School.
“The idea is to get seniors involved in the voting process as early as possible,” said Marion Fleming, the voting registration chair of the LOWV Central Nassau. “We talk to them a bit about the league, and we add our own little appeal for not simply registering but also going to vote when the time is right.”
Fleming said that the LOWV had registered nearly 150 students to vote.
Brian Lupo, the New York Public Interest Research Group’s project coordinator at Nassau Community College, said that the group has been hard at work to register college students since the semester began.
“Because of the prices of higher education, tuition has skyrocketed, and a lot of people, especially at public institutions, don’t want to see more budgets cut,” Lupo said. “It’s so important politicians see how much an enormous voting block students can be as far as an age demographic. We want to make sure every student has the opportunity to vote.”
According to Janine McElroy, director of campus life at Molloy College, there have been many voter registration days on campus so far this semester.
NYPIRG has registered more than 1,200 voters since the semester began, through classroom announcements and staffing tables in common areas to promote registration.
The dismal voter turnout percentages apply to the local level as well, said Boylan, a Rockville Centre resident.
“We have a trustee election coming up, but if you look at the number of residents in this village and then the number who vote, it’s not good,” Boylan said.
According to the New York State Commission on Local Government Efficiency & Competitiveness, participation in school budget votes in generally between 10-15 percent of eligible voters. The Rockville Centre School District 2012-13 budget and trustee election, held in May, had only 2,907 total votes. In the 2009 Rockville Centre Board of Trustee election, there were 3,911 total voters and in the 2011 mayoral election, there were 4,941 total voters.
“Democracy is not a spectator sport,” Boylan said, stressing the importance of the Nov. 6 election day. “If anyone failed to get registered for this election, they should still get registered. There are trustee and school elections coming up. It doesn’t end.”