Activists filled Hillel Plaza in Flatbush to celebrate National Voter Registration Day. Representatives from multiple government agencies and nonprofit organizations set up tables throughout the outdoor courtyard, helping eligible New Yorkers register to vote for upcoming elections.
The event was particularly focused on registering young people and new citizens who have just recently become eligible to vote.
“We’ve done similar events like this in the past throughout the city, and we intend to do more,” said Laura Wood, chief democracy officer for the nonpartisan city initiative DemocracyNYC. “We could not think of a better way to celebrate national voter registration day than coming together here with wonderful community partners.”
DemocracyNYC has continued organizing voter registration events and workshops citywide throughout the pandemic, and has seen turnouts increase during the past year.
“Most recently with the primary in June, we saw the highest turnout for a mayoral primary in 30 years,” Wood said. “We still have a ways to go but signs are pointing in the right direction and we need to continue doing the work.”
“I think the pandemic has made people realize how important government is,” she added. “There have been a record number of people running for office and a record number of people coming out to vote. Hopefully once the pandemic is behind us this pattern will continue.”
Representatives from other independent voter registration groups, such as the State League of Women Voters, were also present at the event.
“If you don’t vote, other people are making decisions for you,” said Kate Doran, the Board of Elections specialist for the group. “People were engaged in 2020, it was the highest turnout we’ve ever seen. That was good, but still nowhere good enough.”
On the other hand, the politicians present at the event directly addressed the partisan disputes that are now at the heart of national politics.
“This is the perfect time right now to be talking about voter registration because of the direction our country is going,” said Public Advocate Jumaane WIlliams. “In many places in this country governments are actually trying to take away people’s right to vote. And the darker your skin, the more likely they are to take that right from you.”
Williams encouraged young people, immigrants, and the formerly incarcerated to research voter registration before assuming they are ineligible to vote.
“Just because you are involved in the criminal system, that does not mean you are not eligible,” he said. “Please check with somebody before assuming you don’t have that right.”