The Tonawanda News
Tonawanda News — New York state is ranked near the bottom of the country when it comes to voter registration.
But on Thursday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo launched a sweeping new initiative to expand access to voter registration by allowing New Yorkers to register to vote and update their address or party enrollment online through the state Department of Motor Vehicles.
Cuomo said the measure will remove barriers that have prevented New York state residents from taking part in the democratic process.
National voter registration figures showing the Empire State has less than 64 percent of eligible residents registered to vote, which puts it at 47 out of 52 in the nation.
“At the DMV or in their own homes, New Yorkers will now have a convenient and secure way to ensure they are able to register and exercise their right to vote,” Cuomo said.
The DMV processes roughly 300,000 “motor voter” applications a year, but is riddled with waste and redundancies due to a manual process that leaves plenty of room for human error, according to Cuomo.
The new system will replace the vast majority of paper forms and allow for the centralization and digital transmission of voter registration applications, he said.
In all of the state’s 129 DMV office, new electronic terminals will allow registrants to apply to register to vote or update their registration information themselves electronically without completing any paper forms. These transactions will be overseen by DMV representatives and are subject to the same security standards as the current system.
But before the system is implemented, the DMV will print the electronically-captured voter registration applications with a digitized signature and mail them from their central Albany office to the county boards of elections.
Erie County Elections Commissioner Dennis Ward called the move a major technological step forward that will result in the savings of employee time and taxpayer dollars and meet the voter identification requirements of the federal Help America Vote Act.
“The daily transfers will allow quicker processing of applications and the typed registration forms will be easier to process and will reduce the chance of error,” he said.
Attorney General Eric Schneiderman criticized a recent decision by Pennsylvania’s state assembly to do away with similar plans, while he added that the development in New York will increase voter participation.
“In this election year, too many states are making it more difficult to vote when they should be making it easier,” he said. “Over generations, Americans have torn down barriers to voting in order to make our democracy more inclusive and our government more representative of all its citizens.”