In early September, Governor Andrew Cuomo proposed changing the date of New York’s 2020 presidential primary from April to February, claiming he wanted to stress the importance of New York’s primary in relation to the rest of the nation and have “a robust debate and dialogue among the Democratic candidates.” If he had succeeded, the change would have been more harmful than beneficial. I don’t believe it was unintentional.
New York has closed primary elections and requires registered voters to declare their party affiliation at least six months before the election date. The current deadline to register for the Republican primary is Oct. 21, and the deadline to register for the Democratic primary is Oct. 28. If the dates of the primaries had been moved up, only voters who declared their affiliation before Aug. 21 or Aug. 28 would be eligible to vote. It would also prevent new voters from registering.
New York has 270 delegates in the Democratic Primary and so New York voters hold a respectable amount of power in the DNC. The DNC warned Cuomo that moving the primaries election dates up will result in a penalty, as was the case in 2008 with Michigan and Florida, who lost half their delegate votes. To leave New York out of a Democrat’s campaign trail would be counterproductive. Cuomo’s attempt to change the primary date would cost New York some of its influence in the DNC, contradicting his attempt to place New York issues in the forefront.
There is no shortage of attention for New York from Democratic candidates. Two candidates, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Mayor Bill de Blasio, represented New Yorkers, though both have since dropped out. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) kicked off his 2020 campaign at Brooklyn College. Senator Elizabeth Warren held a rally on Sept. 16 in Washington Square Park, with an estimated 20,000 in attendance. New York ranks second in the nation in terms of total donations to Democrats. Considering the candidates’ personal affiliations, the number of voters and delegates and amount of donations, in the current competitive field there is no reason for a Democratic candidate to ignore the state of New York.
Cuomo’s first 100 days for the new 2019 legislative agenda included modernizing New York’s voting laws; he signed off on legislation allowing early voting, synchronized federal and state elections and voter preregistration for people under 18. Pushing back the primaries would be counterintuitive to previous legislative advancements and disenfranchise a large portion of voters. Cuomo’s communications director Dani Lever said consolidating the presidential, congressional and state primary elections would ease the voting process. If that were the case, this proposal should’ve come much earlier, or the sixth month requirement should’ve been eliminated along with the proposed legislation.
Cuomo supports former Vice President Biden, claiming “people can’t eat rhetoric.” A poll by College Pulse and Chegg found 28% of college students supported Sanders, 22% supported Warren, and only 11% supported Biden. Young voters have the potential to turn out in even larger numbers than they did in the 2018 midterms, where 36% of 18-29 year olds voted and changed many seats in favor of more progressive candidates, versus 20% in 2014. Young college students especially, who may not have registered with a party before, would be uninformed about a change in voting laws. Eighteen-year-olds beginning life alone are not likely to prioritize voter registration during their first week in New York in late August. Combining the presidential, congressional and state primaries requires that voters be informed much earlier and much more comprehensively. Most would be hard-pressed to learn enough about every candidate and ballot issue to put forth a confident and decisive vote. Cuomo doesn’t want to invigorate young voters because he doesn’t support the same candidates they do. He would keep us ignorant and prevent us from exercising our rights by moving goalposts we aren’t aware of.
NYU has hosted many voter registration drives, but students may still be unaware of the approaching deadline. Any attempt to remove young voters is unfair. Fortunately, the date change did not happen, so there is still time for prospective voters to register and declare a party affiliation for a chance to use their voices. Voter education must take precedent. Barriers to voting need to be removed effectively and honestly. An informed voter is proof of a working democracy, and now is the time to make that a reality.
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