New Yorkers Would Receive Voter Registration Forms with Leases Under New Proposal

 New Yorkers could receive more than a lease from new landlords, if election reform legislation from Council Member Ben Kallos passes. Kallos’ bill would require landlords to distribute voter registration forms for every tenant signing a lease for a vacant apartment—including forms in Spanish, Chinese, Korean or Bengali upon request. Landlords can additionally provide assistance or submit the forms directly to the Board of Elections upon request.

Residents who move are less likely to vote, in part because of the need to re-register at a new location, the concept of residential mobility, according to the Campaign Finance Board's 2012 report "Who Votes?" Approximately two-thirds of New Yorkers are renters—and 10% of New Yorkers live somewhere different than they did one year prior, according to the Furman Center and 2013 Census Data respectively. New Yorkers who move are legally required to change their voter registration forms within 25 days.   Because of the negative impact of mobility on participation, Fair Elections Legal Network recommends that municipalities require landlords to distribute voter registration forms to new tenants as a best practice. The policy was successfully implemented in Madison, Wisconsin, East Lansing, Michigan, and Takoma Park, Maryland.

 Because of the negative impact of mobility on participation, Fair Elections Legal Network recommends that municipalities require landlords to distribute voter registration forms to new tenants as a best practice. The policy was successfully implemented in Madison, Wisconsin, East Lansing, Michigan, and Takoma Park, Maryland.

Voter turnout in New York City remains among the lowest in the nation. There are 4,969,000 citizens who are eligible to vote in New York City and 4 million registered voters with a turnout of 1,366,982 in 2010 according to the New York City Campaign Finance Board and the Board of Elections.

“Registering to vote in New York City should be easier than finding the right New York City apartment,” said Council Member Ben Kallos. “In our city of renters, ensuring that leases come with registration forms will go a long way towards increasing participation and keeping voter rolls up to date. It is time for every New Yorker to receive voter registration forms with their new lease.”

"We commend Council Member Kallos for introducing a bill that will make it easier for people to register to vote. Ensuring that all new tenants receive a voter registration form will help increase registration levels, particularly among underrepresented groups like young voters and transient residents. Making registration more accessible can only strengthen and diversify democracy in our city," said Katrina Gamble, Director of Civic Engagement & Politics, Center for Popular Democracy.

"Our city works best when its residents, we and our neighbors, are engaged in its upkeep. This bill helps us work towards that by making a basic American privilege and responsibility - the right to vote - more accessible to all. We appreciate Councilmember Kallos' bold leadership on this important action," said Sarah Andes, NYC Site Director for Generation Citizen.

"In our voter registration drives we see large numbers of change of address registrants. This legislation could be immensely helpful to increasing the political engagement of NYC tenants—who make up over 65% of our population. We applaud Council Member Kallos for proposing this creative civic engagement bill,” said Lauren George, Common Cause NY.

"This bill not only makes it easy for new residents to register to vote, assuring that they will know how to do so, but also makes it easy for residents to notify the Board of Elections of a change of address, since the same form is used for both registration and an address change. The bill will improve voter registration by doing this, and help maximize the number of registered voters in New York," David Kogelman, former Counsel to the New York State Senate Committee on Elections and current advocate for election reform.