What's Keeping New Yorkers from the Polls?

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Larry Norden, deputy director of the Democracy Program at the Brennan CenterAdrienne Kivelson, city affairs chair of the League of Women Voters of the City of New YorkLucia Gomez-Jimenez, executive director of La FuenteMark Winston Griffith, adjunct faculty at the CUNY Graduate School of JournalismRachel Bishop, national programs director at the League of Young VotersChung-Wha Hong, executive director of the NY Immigration Coalition, and John Stremlau, vice president for peace programs at the Carter Center, brainstorm ways to turn around the city's low voter turnout.

THEN a conversation about how campaigns approach voter turnout with Michael DuHaime, Republican political strategist and partner at Mercury Public Affairs, and Doug Forand, Democratic political strategist and founding partner at Red Horse Strategies.


Watch the full video of the morning's event below.


More in:

Comments [52]

mike from Bronx

Votes from Media (the most powerful political force in USA) is the one that matters. Citizens' votes are virtually meaningless. President is not elected by the people anyway. I still vote.

Nov. 03 2011 11:41 AM
Paul from Bronx

I have voted since 1972. But what is the use after watching Mayor Bloomberg twice reject the term limit referendum and power his way into a third term. Anyone interested in running simply fled in front of the money and bullying. The lessons were clearly that "they" can outwait, outspend and control or ignore the outcome.

Nov. 02 2011 10:31 AM
Vincent from Manhattan

A question people frequently ask is: What are we voting for? Also, people need to know HOW to vote, like, for istance, if they should vote for one candidate, ONLY, or they could even vote for two, or three candidates, and still be counted. And why some candidates are listed as democratic, and republican at the same time? That is confusing. When the Board Of Elections sends the informations in different languages with ED/AD where to vote, and which is even not easy to locate amongst all the various languages, they should briefly introduce each candidate. This could also be done in some Public Libraries for 1 or 2 hours, on Saturdays, or Sundays, as a free class.

Nov. 02 2011 01:54 AM
Keysha from Bronx

There is a petition on to abolish the Electoral College.

18,000+ people want to directly choose the president. I agree.!/petition/grant-voters-ability-vote-president-united-states-dissolving-electoral-college/GZQtFSPV

Nov. 01 2011 05:54 PM
Janet (Upper West Side)

Making it mandatory might be a solution for improving voter turn-out, as in Australia. After all there are already some mandatory US responsibilities (like taxes & education) which aren't considered anti-constitutional. For those people who want to register a protest vote, there could be a "None of the above" in each column. Thanks, JANET (Upper West Side)

Nov. 01 2011 04:40 PM
Reece from Manhattan

I wonder if the 47% who do not pay income taxes aren't basically disenfranchised from the system. I understand Elliot Spitzer's comments this morning but wonder if, by virtue of not paying income taxes, that group might feel that government isn't relevant to them and therefore they don't vote.

Nov. 01 2011 02:12 PM

I just finished Matt Taibbi's book Griftopia, which should be required for all Americans. He refers to Congress as "eunuchs" for Big Money. American voters realize intuitively that our political campaign process is completely corrupt, and that their concerns and needs are drowned out by the blandishments of lobbyists for Big Money (Oil, Pharma, Insurance..).
We will only get our country back when we demand and insist on mandatory publicly funded elections, spending limits on behalf of a candidate as well.

Nov. 01 2011 01:33 PM
Christopher from Park Slope

As long as the selection of the president is in the hands of the Electoral College, my vote as a New Yorker in presidential elections is effectively meaningless: I don't believe I saw a single _presidential_ campaign ad during the 2008 election, neither party was interested in soliciting my vote as NY was conceded by all as a Blue state. Ergo my concerns for my community and country are superseded by those held by folks living in small-populated, high-media coverage (primarily rural) states like Idaho and New Hampshire - and the national dialogue is vastly distorted and imbalanced.

Thanks for a truly useful show.

Nov. 01 2011 12:01 PM
John from NYC

The NYC Board of Elections needs to be more accountable for the citizens. This organization seems to be more interested in the status quo of elections. Why can't referendums be initiated by individuals? Why are the Borough Presidents still part of of the NYC government at all? These people don't add to solving problems for residents in NYC? Why did the term limits law get overriden in New York after two separate votes on the matter?

Nov. 01 2011 12:01 PM
Amy from Manhattan

Elections in Australia are held on Saturdays? What do observant Jews do?

Nov. 01 2011 12:00 PM
luther blissett from NYC

also agreed with James. unfortunately, so much money has been invested over the past 10 years all over the country in deeply flawed voting hardware & software.

Nov. 01 2011 11:59 AM
April from Manhattan

Too many people don't vote because they think there's no difference between the two parties, or vote for a third party candidate,like Ralph Nader, who gave us George W, Teddy Kennedy who gave us Reagan, and worst of all, Eugene McCarthy, who gave us Nixon. My first vote was for Hubert Humphrey, (always being a political realist). I missed great theatre in Chicago, but demonstrated against Vietnam and in the civil rights movement in the South. Now people say both Obama and the Rs are owned by Wall St,. Goldman Sucks to be precise. Yet Obama wants to tax millionaires and corporations, including banks, even as he takes donations from them. I partly blame myself for his disappointments. Before his inauguration, the Rs they "would make health care his Waterloo". Where were we, me, to demand single payer and get a public option? Not in DC! We waited for the Messiah to do it for us. Even though he'd said, as FDR did, that we had to make him do it. The corporate funded Tea Party showed up to lobby from their grass-green moneyed roots, to lobby against it. I wasn't there. A guy from the Obama campaign who called agreed with me, somewhat angrily. He's right. I'd been sure for the first time I wasn't voting for the lesser of two evils; gave Obama more than I could afford. I still support him, despite the drones, "targeted killings" and compromises. Lack of compromises are how Washington doesn't work these days. The Rs turn down their own bills if O offers them. All they think about is defeating him. My dream ticket would be Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren in either position. But we're not dreaming. So I'll vote for Obama comfortably.

Nov. 01 2011 11:58 AM
Amy from Manhattan

Louise P. Sloan: The percentages given are for eligible voters, not the entire population of the state, so the no. of non-U.S. citizens doesn't affect the percentage.

Nov. 01 2011 11:57 AM
Sarah from LES

Let's not forget why voting is NOT compulsory. Jehovah's witnesses fought for this right and their exercising their civil rights helps us all.

Nov. 01 2011 11:56 AM
James from Brooklyn, NY

I always wondered why we don't use a voting machine similar to ATMs? We could use a touch screen machine that used the same interface and then when the vote was submitted, it would be recorded electronically and a receipt would also be printed that confirmed your selections. You would sign that receipt and deposit it at the polling station so you would have an electronic record with a hard copy back up.

Nov. 01 2011 11:55 AM
gene from NYC

A close friend works at an elder facility in CT.

She swears that every election year a Republican "get out the vote" group comes in and, with people of limited mental capacity, goads them with "guidance" on the voting form like, "you want to check "Republican," right?"

Nov. 01 2011 11:54 AM
john from office

If you are so dumb to be turned away from the polls by Men in cowboy hats, you deserve to not vote.

Internet voting will lead to fraud.

Nov. 01 2011 11:52 AM
luther blissett from NYC

perhaps a large reason why there is not high voter turnout even among registered voters is because there is a collective understanding that the entire political system is corrupted by money, i.e. elected officials are up for sale to the highest bidder(s). Dylan Ratigan likes to make an observation that over 90% of the time (forget the exact %), across the board from local to national, the person who raises the most money wins the election.

of course, non-participation in elections only makes this situation worse.

so how can these deeply discouraged individuals encouraged to go to the polls so that their voice is heard? easy solution: as Tom Brokaw noted yesterday, add a "none of the above" category to every ballot.

Nov. 01 2011 11:51 AM
luther blissett from NYC

perhaps a large reason why there is not high voter turnout even among registered voters is because there is a collective understanding that the entire political system is corrupted by money, i.e. elected officials are up for sale to the highest bidder(s). Dylan Ratigan likes to make an observation that over 90% of the time (forget the exact %), across the board from local to national, the person who raises the most money wins the election.

of course, non-participation in elections only makes this situation worse.

so how can these deeply discouraged individuals encouraged to go to the polls so that their voice is heard? easy solution: as Tom Brokaw noted yesterday, add a "none of the above" category to every ballot.

Nov. 01 2011 11:50 AM
Amy from Manhattan

Who was that saying you have to lie to vote absentee? I didn't when I was out of town over Election Day in 2004, when I went to do Election Protection work in Philadelphia. I did need to send for an absentee ballot by mail & take it to the Board of Elections office in person. But nothing in the process required me to lie.

Nov. 01 2011 11:44 AM
Sharon from LES

They are conflating to issues. "Election fraud" is real and it is done and that includes voter suppression.

"Voter Fraud" is DIFFERENT. Voter fraud is when people pose as dead people or try to vote twice, this rarely if ever happens. So much so it has no affect on anything.

Nov. 01 2011 11:43 AM

From my experience as a college teacher, which you might not want to hear: the Latinos told me their priests tell them who to vote for. Since they are uninformed about the broader issues, that's what they do: vote against their interests because of "values." It is blatant and endemic. Eastern Europeans are also very conservative and have told their other teachers how they feel about Jews, blacks and gays. So if these groups don't vote, all the better.

Nov. 01 2011 11:42 AM
Oleg from Astoria

On-line Monthly Voting. Increased voting opportunities by expanding issue vothing to engage the electorate. Annual voting is an artifact of the pre-Internet age.

Nov. 01 2011 11:41 AM

Read this about voter suppression:

Nov. 01 2011 11:40 AM
Inquisigal from Brooklyn

I'm surprised no one has mentioned having to vote, in person, in your home district as a reason why people don't vote.

if I live in Brooklyn, but work in Manhattan, and spend most of my day in another borough or district, it would be far easier to vote in another district (or online). if we voted in person in another district, a system could be used where you type your home address into a computer and a screen pops up that represents my home district and local issues. Then that system could also utilize safety nets such as: are you sure you want to vote yes on Question 13?

I usually vote, but have to admit: getting to a local poling place that may not be on my way to work - before work - has thwarted me for less important races. I'm just not going to get up extra early to make it to my poling place before work, to vote in less important races.

Nov. 01 2011 11:35 AM
Jacqui from EVillage

One of your speakers holding up the tea party as result model is the height of irony!!!!!
The result the voters of the tea party elected candidates have seen so far is one word NO!!!!!
Great forward thinking democracy!!!!!

Nov. 01 2011 11:33 AM
Kabir from Manhattan

Not voting is a vote, but we incorrectly count those votes for the winner of a small group of people [those who "turn out"]. In reality those votes should count as "no confidence." How about no mayor until you get 51% of the actual public. Put the responsibility on politicians to make their interests worth our time.

Nov. 01 2011 11:32 AM
Philip from Brooklyn

Just to follow up on my earlier comment, here is a sample of the ballot should I choose to vote next Tuesday.

I know this is an off-year election, however, the lack of choice does not seem democratic (small-d) at all.

Nov. 01 2011 11:32 AM
SteveH from B'klyn

We get what we DESERVE.

People who vote complain.
ALL others should be thrown in PRISON. Not voting for a candidate should always be an option, but voting should ALWAYS be mandatory.

Nov. 01 2011 11:32 AM
ee from nyc

i sometimes don’t vote because my vote doesn’t matter since my section of manhattan always votes the same way i would.

Nov. 01 2011 11:30 AM
Frank from Newark

Kind of odd, that no one ever mentions how undemocratic the winner-takes-it-all US-system is.

Majority vote generally out minorities - ethnic, political, whatever - at a disadvantages, because they have no chance to ever be represented by one of their own.

Nov. 01 2011 11:30 AM
jon from midtown

I dont vote because I have yet to be convinced that any candidate was qualified or deserving of office. Being a politician seems to be a hobby for rich people, no politician 'needs' the job..they just want the power, the thrill, whatever. I do not think that being well funded and having enough free time for campaigning should be sufficient to run for president. And yet, even worse, it is necessary. Imagine choosing a president who actually needed the paycheck!!

Furthermore, the real presidential spirit (the actual action that takes place after a president is elected) is driven by UNELECTED advisors, cabinet members, think-tanks, BS researchers and the whole political media machine. Its all just a big four year train wreck, and voting is like choosing which of the trains you want to be in when the collision occurs.

Nov. 01 2011 11:29 AM

The US does not encourage voting -- in many states poll hours are shorter than in NY State making it difficult to impossible for working people to vote. And then there the recent voter id laws passed in states with Republican legislatures which are supposed to counter the false argument that there is wide spread voter fraud? Not only do these disenfranchise non-white, minority and young people but they send the message that voting is a hurdle to overcome rather than the right and duty of every citizen in a participatory democracy.

Nov. 01 2011 11:28 AM
Megan from Manhattan

Why not have students in public schools have to pass the citizenship exams? My 7th grade teacher mandated this to pass her course (in NJ), and I've never forgotten what I learned. I often find naturalized citizens more informed than native-born. And in this educational climate so enamored with standardized testing, using the citizenship exam to teach students about our government seems an obvious choice.

Nov. 01 2011 11:27 AM
Michael M Thomas from Brooklyn, NY

The voting issue, along with many of the issues raised in the first segment, must to a great degree come down to the existence of a costly yet impoverished, socially and functionally illiterate, marginally employable underclass, mired in violence, alienation, you name it - every social dysfunction imaginable. Then we must confront the no less costly existence of a corrupt political-oligarchic sector composed of fixers and fixees. Consider these the two jaws of a vise, and what chance do those caught in the middle have? Then there's the fact that Wall Street, so essential to the city, espouses a moral culture that disavows concern for any organ except the wallet, and certainly has no notion of what in my boyhood (I'm 75) was called the "general (or the common) good." How can one trust a system that subsidized Goldman Sachs to the tune of $200 million for a new headquarters in the face of a threat (what I suppose we might call "the Wylde Doctrine") to move to New Jersey - at a time when city school budgets were being cut. Let us not overlook the fact that our mayor owes his fortune to the astonishing flowering of Wall Street and the financial sector. Finally, to a point now being discussed, when we talk about "rich," we need to start looking at wealth, not income. It's the capital that is the real power.

Nov. 01 2011 11:24 AM
Louise P. Sloane from New York

I think the single most important way to get out the vote would be to bring back good old civics classes in all of our schools. Vast numbers of the American public don't understand how our government is structured and therefore cannot be an educated democratic population. This was the original reason for public education, and our nation needs to re-enter this as a major topic of study in all schools, public as well as private. These classes must additionally be provided for immigrant populations at community centers and schools. And...these classes must be provided for free. This is the only way that our nation will recognize the power of the people and the importance of their vote.

Nov. 01 2011 11:22 AM
Jacqui from East Village

Does anyone have an accurate stat. on NON American citizens in NY?
Is there really an accurate way to measure that.?
I would guess NY has a high Non American citizen pop.

Nov. 01 2011 11:21 AM

Profesor Francis Fox Pivens has written extensively on these issues....I hope you can have her on.

From my perspective, it's no accident that voter turnout and registration is low.

The establishment doesn't really WANT people informed and engaged and voting in hero own least not if you are in the "99%".

The folks LEAST likely to vote are the same folks who are at the bottom of our society. That is no accident!

There exist numerous perverse incentives for the status quo...and this segment, can't possibly cover them all......but the solution lies, in great measure, in the topic of the last segment. What's needed in the short run is a renewed ACORN type movement/organization that has as it's mission to INFORM/MOTIVATE/ACTIVATE every American citizen to vote AND to vote for lawmakers who will reform the electoral system so that it becomes convenient for people to vote......what we have now are all manner of barriers...and it's getting worse as the Brennan Center study shows......they document FIVE MILLION suppressed voters....and that's the tip of the iceberg!

Let's face it, the 1% don't WANT an informed/motivated and politically activated populace...they profit from the corrupt status quo that legalizes bribery.

The problem for the 1% is that the status quo is NOT indefinitely sustainable.....the real world consequences of a failed American democracy, at this point in history, can be ongoing unchecked global warming that reaches a tipping point......then all bets are off for the human species as a whole. That may sound extreme, but I truly believe that the fate of humanity may, in great measure, hinge on whether America finds a way to make our democracy work for the manifestation of common human decency for the many over short sighted stupid greed for the few.

Nov. 01 2011 11:19 AM
arthur bohm from Manhattan

There are too many elections. NYC should only have elections in even years with one primary and one election. As opposed to having them in both even and odd years with separate elections for school board.

Nov. 01 2011 11:18 AM
john from office

It is true that there are efforts to prevent people from voting. But, do you really want the unmotivated, uneduated, unread to vote for the flavor of the month.

People like Michael Jackson and reality stars will get in to office.

Nov. 01 2011 11:17 AM
Boris from brighton beach

Russian radio 620 AM, had a 24 hour push to get the Russian community to vote for republican candidates.

real Russian style Propaganda campaign.

it was very effective, because it came on top of the regular brain washing that the radio station performs on a daily basis.

Nov. 01 2011 11:17 AM
Philip from Brooklyn

What about the fact that local party bosses exert so much control over the ballot, that often times there is no choice? From my experience of voting in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, the domain of Brooklyn Democratic chairman Vito Lopez, I frequently see candidates appear on both Democratic and Republican party lines. There literally is no choice. Of course citizens would feel disengaged if they do not have any say in the choice they have.

Nov. 01 2011 11:15 AM

The amount of time it takes to vote makes it quite difficult. I work far away from where I live/am registered to vote so I am far from my designated poll station. This makes it difficult for me to leave work, vote, then come back in a timely manner. This means I have to get up really early or rush home from work and hope to make the voting hours.

I have voted in every election since being eligible, and I plan to continue, but I think voting rules really penalize people who have standard jobs, tight hours, who don't have flexible hours. Why can't voting take place over two days, a Friday and Saturday maybe, where I could go in on Saturday to vote instead.

Nov. 01 2011 11:13 AM
George Showman from Brooklyn

How about a viable third party? I haven't voted in either of the last two elections. I would have voted for Nader, but know this is essentially meaningless in NYC (my neighborhood goes Democratic always, so far as I can tell) and so could not justify taking the time to go to the polling station on a workday.

This leads perhaps to a discussion of gerrymandering - how many NYC voting districts are really competitive? I feel like the main parties have a lock-down on most districts.

Nov. 01 2011 11:12 AM
hose from queens

Because politicians do not want everyone to vote.

Nov. 01 2011 11:12 AM
Katie from Huntington

One of the causes of low voter turnout is term limits--there's no need to vote. Term Limits will get rid of whomever one doesn't like so there's no need to go to the polls. If one likes the person in office, and he terms out, one cannot vote for him any longer. People are lazy; they want the system to do it for them. Then, they complain. People don't want "politicians" to do a political job. What do they want--amateurs?

Nov. 01 2011 11:12 AM
Brian Ireland

In Argentina, a democracy, voting is mandatory by law, and voting day is always on Sunday, ostensibly a day off from work. What benefits or problems might such basic reforms affect upon the political and social landscape here in the states?

Nov. 01 2011 11:11 AM
Janet from Westchester

Many people are discouraged from voting because the choices are so poor. Regardless of party, most politicians are in the pockets of the Wall Street fat cats who control what laws are passed - or not.
Until we have public funding ONLY of elections, this will continue. The Supreme Court has now guaranteed the unlimited contributions from banks and corporate maggots. Politicians need to represent the people, not their corporate pimps.

Nov. 01 2011 11:10 AM
Bobby G from East Village

A lot of poor people don't vote. Why not require voting in order to receive government benefits: Medicaid, Medicare, Section 8 Housing, Social Security Disability and Social Security.

I'm sure this would be really popular in states that are currently passing "voter suppression laws."

Nov. 01 2011 11:07 AM
WonderWomyn from Deer Park, NY

A lack of personal reponsibility has landed us in this mess....let's own up to it, engage our neighbors, make knowledge-based decisions, speak up when you hear lies, ask for sources of information and "facts" and VOTE

Nov. 01 2011 11:06 AM
Palisades from Westchester Cty

Everyone who wants to vote should be allowed to, freely and easily.
However, I don't care if people don't vote. It is disappointing and sad, but research shows that people who don't vote are generally less informed.
I'd rather have active informed citizens participating in our process than people who show up once or twice a year to vote for someone arbitrarily or impulsively.

Nov. 01 2011 11:03 AM
Margi Trapani from Manhattan

I hope that Larry Norden and the rest of the panel will talk about the physical and attitudinal barriers at polling sites that can discourage or completely prevent people with disabilities and seniors from voting.

Nov. 01 2011 10:47 AM

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