NEW YORK—In a major effort to get potential voters registered by the Oct. 12 deadline, voter rights groups and celebrities were out in force Tuesday, enticing New York to sign up.
“We really are trying everything we can to take excuses away from people,” said Rosario Dawson, actress and co-founder of Voto Latino, a group empowering American-Latino voters. “This is our very first one, but we are going to keep using it year after year in election years and nonelection years to get people excited about the entire process.”
Dawson attended an event at Lehman College in the Bronx, one of many sites around the city hosting voter registration drives on National Voter Registration Day.
Christopher Gonzalez, 21, registered to vote and was excited at the prospect of participating in his first election on Nov. 6. “I feel like my voice can be heard now,” he said.
Visitors to the Times Square subway station were also able to register to vote. Actor and Voto Latino advocate Wilmer Valderrama was onsite urging voters to register.
“This is a very critical moment in the history of our country,” Valderrama said.
“We can bond together and raise the awareness and create the movement and say if you are not registered to vote, you are not taking the course of our country seriously,” Valderrama said.
The prevailing theme for the events was not only registering people to vote, but also about how important casting your ballot on Election Day is. Voter participation in New York state is among the lowest in the nation—47th out of 50 states. Events like these are meant to remind voters how important it is to participate in the process.
“This is our democratic process that is in place,” NYC Voter Assistance Commission Executive Director Onida Coward Mayers said Tuesday. “This is what we need to use to articulate and communicate how we want to be represented.”
New York City Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott was on hand at Lehman College to speak to the students about the importance of voter participation, not only for now, but for future generations. Walcott pointed to an 8-month-old baby girl named Felicity, “Everything we do right now is laying a foundation for the future,” Walcott said. “No matter who your candidate may be, it is so important for all of us to take that right and make sure we exercise it every time we have the opportunity.”
Much has been said about the issues voters had getting to the polls in the recent June and September primaries, but as the chancellor pointed out, the right to vote was won through the sacrifice of generations before ours.
Assistant professor of political science at Fordham University Christina Greer said: “People have to recognize, it may be inconvenient to you, but it is your duty as a citizen. It is not mandatory, but as a citizen you should think of it as a requirement or responsibility.”
The Board of Elections announced Tuesday that City Council had approved $1.6 million to fund a second mailer to all registered voters to inform them of their polling places. The board hopes the mailer will curb voter confusion on Nov. 6.
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