New Yorkers will wait in line for hours for a good brunch. Waiting in line to vote? Not so much.
Only 25 percent of New York state's registered voters turned out in the 2014 gubernatorial race. In fact, the New York Public Interest Research Group's legislative director Blair Horner called voter turnout in the state flat-out "lousy." And voter apathy isn't just a problem during the midterm years. In 2008, only 61 percent of registered New York City residents went to the polls — the worst turnout for any major American city.
And the problem is only getting worse. The state now ranks a staggering 48 out of 50 in voter turnout.
With a high-stakes primary in New York this Tuesday, candidates have been stuffing their faces with as much pizza and swiping as many MetroCards as humanly possible. But it's worth asking, will New Yorkers even go vote?
Vox went to a Bernie Sanders rally to find out.
"So many people I know, especially young people and students, totally missed the deadline even though they really wanted to vote," one Sanders supporter said. "And they probably would have. But they missed the deadline. Or didn't know how to do it."
Another supporter told Vox he is canvassing and volunteering for Sanders but wouldn’t be able to vote in the primary because he didn’t transfer parties in time. As it turns out, he isn't alone. Even Donald Trump's children didn’t switch parties in time and won't be able to vote for their own father.
New York's primary is only for those who are registered members of a party. The last day to change party affiliation in New York was in October of last year, about six months ago, at a point when many voters had probably not even chosen a candidate yet.
Each state and each party has its own rules, which makes New York, uniquely, well, not unique. However, most states do have a secretary of elections to push for better voting systems in state legislatures. New York doesn’t.
So while there have been numerous attempts to simplify the voting system, a lot of the proposals aimed at making it easier to vote in New York never get passed into law. For instance, three bills that would have eased the registration process (including one bill that would automate registration for eligible citizens with a driver's license) stalled.
That's why a group of New Yorkers have chosen to take matters into their own hands and file a lawsuit to make Tuesday's primary completely open. This would remove all of the barriers to voting and confusion about the process. The group's complaints range from voters having their registration papers lost in the mail to some claiming their party affiliation had been changed without their consent.
In any case, what's happening in New York reflects the overall trend in voter apathy in the United States versus the rest of the world. According to data from the Pew Research Center, the United States trails most developed countries in terms of voter turnout. While there's little consensus as to why Americans don't come out to the polls in comparable numbers, making it easier to vote could only help boost voter engagement. The recent rise of voter ID laws has only reduced turnout in states where they were instituted.
So modernizing voting processes wouldn't just help New Yorkers get to the ballot box; it would help most Americans do it too. Voter engagement has spiked in states where the voting process was improved, like Oregon, a state that instituted mail-in ballots. And judging by how polarizing the presidential election has been so far and how many diverging views exist, American will need all the assistance they can get.