Manhattan Times Registration Nation Second annual voter drive targets students by Gregg McQueen
Registration NationSecond annual voter drive targets students
Story and photos by Gregg McQueen
The drive aims to register 20,000 high-schoolers.
Hit the books – and the ballot.
In advance of the presidential primaries, the Second Annual Student Voter Registration Day (SVRD) was held to reach and register 20,000 high-schoolers and to raise awareness about the final March 25th registration deadline.
The registration drive was held on Fri., Mar. 18th at more than 60 schools throughout the five boroughs.
At participating schools, SVRD volunteers assisted eligible students with registering to vote, making them eligible to participate in New York’s presidential primaries on April 19.
And for those who did not sign up Friday still have time – the deadline to register to vote in that contest is March 25.
NYC Votes, the engagement campaign wing of the city’s Campaign Finance Board, spearheaded the registration drive in partnership with City Councilmember Helen Rosenthal, the Department of Education (DOE), the New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC), The Black Institute, and Dominicanos USA.
On March 15, elected officials, DOE Chancellor Carmen Fariña and members of NYC Votes gathered on the steps of City Hall to promote the SVRD event. They were joined by representatives of the League of Women Voters, New York Public Interest Research Group and The Black Institute.
The goal of SVRD is not just to getting more young voters registered, but to actually get them to the voting booth ― according to the city’s Board of Elections, only 11 percent of registered voters 18 to 29 years old went to the polls in the 2013 mayoral election.
“Our democracy can only exist when we have informed and active citizens, and that is why we want our students to understand how important voting is and have the knowledge and resources to be informed voters,” said Fariña.
This is the second straight year the city has held a voter registration event for students. In 2015, more than 2,000 students in 25 schools registered to vote on SVRD.
Rosenthal said that many more registrants were expected this year, as the program has been expanded to more schools.
“We want our students to understand how important voting is,” said Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña.
“Their voice is going to be heard this year, and it’s going to be heard loud and clear,” she stated.
Part of the campaign included a public service announcement video, and discussions with students on how issues like the cost of public colleges, the minimum wage, affordable housing, and the cost of a MetroCard are impacted by who is in elected office.
Steven Choi, NYIC Executive Director, said that voting is an important way to engage the city’s immigrants in the democratic process, as the majority of New York City high school students are either immigrants or their children.
“In this critical election year, we need this more than ever,” said Choi.
City Councilmember Ben Kallos explained that many young people do not realize that they can register to vote as early as age 17, as long as they are 18 by election day.
“Right now, our state ranks near the bottom of the country for voter participation,” said Kallos. “What if, over the next ten years, we registered every one of our high school seniors? We could really help turn that tide.”
“I say every election year is the most important,” said Michael Ryan, Executive Director of the New York City Board of Elections.
“Some people are more motivated to vote in a presidential election year, but I say every election year is the most important,” commented Michael Ryan, Executive Director of the New York City Board of Elections. “Often, your local City Councilmember will have more of an impact on your daily life than the president does.”
Eddie Cuesta, New York Director for Bronx-based Dominicanos USA, said his non-profit organization would be at the Bronx High School of Science during SVRD, and expected to register more than 1,000 students.
“It’s exciting, making sure that every young person is registered to vote,” Cuesta said.
Organizers said it was critical that youths exercise a critical and basic right of participation in civic society.
Councilmember Jumaane Williams registered to vote at age 18 and voted in an election as soon as he could.
“If you’re not voting, you’re not using your voice,” remarked Williams. “I’ve heard people say that they don’t want to vote because ‘the system’s bad,’ but I don’t understand that. Voting is one the easiest and most fundamental tools that we can use.”