NYPIRG Panel Underscores the Importance of Making It Easier for Young Folks to Vote

This event was part of NYPIRG’s Student Empowerment Virtual Conference, which featured three sessions throughout the day that focused on different parts of students’ role in activism and the New York government. Photo courtesy of Will Waldron at the Albany Times Union.

New York State Senate members highlighted the importance of young voter turnout at the “Election Day 2020; What It Means for New York” event on Nov. 13.

The New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG) welcomed New York State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and New York State Senate Elections Committee Chair Zellnor Myrie to discuss results of Election Day and how elections could be improved in the future. 

Both Stewart-Cousins and Myrie emphasized the importance of not just young voter turnout, but also repeatedly advocating for what you believe in.

“I think that any politician who is not clear of the power [young voters] have is just not woke at all,” said Stewart-Cousins. “The thing that I would ask for for you all is to understand that, you know, we can’t change every bad thing that’s happened in the world in two days or two years. But with your help, we can make a big difference and improve a lot for everyone.” 

This election had large turnouts from young voters in particular. According to estimates by the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement at Tufts University, 53% of eligible voters aged 18 to 29 cast votes in this election versus only 45% in 2016. 

For the most part, young voters favored Vice President Joe Biden in this election. According to preliminary estimates done by Edison Research for the National Election Pool, 60% of young voters voted for Joe Biden while 36% voted for Donald Trump.

Despite — and perhaps because of — the influence that young voters have, early voting sites and Election Day voting sites are often difficult for students, who often don’t have cars of their own, to access.

Senator Myrie warned students of gerrymandering that often makes voting more difficult for students in particular.

“The lines have been drawn in such a way to split up campuses and to make it harder for students to participate,” Myrie said. “If you believe that having greater student participation harms your party, then perhaps you should examine the policies of your party and why it is that young people don’t gravitate in that way. What you should not do is make it harder for them to participate in their democracy.” 

New York Senator Kevin Parker proposed Senate Bill 3092 in 2018, which would address this issue. This bill “prohibits election districts being drawn in such a way that they are partly on and partly off a college or university campus or other contiguous college or university property with 300 or more registered voters, excluding inactive voters.”

It would also ensure that college campuses with at least 300 voters would have a designated polling site on campus, or at a nearby location that is approved by the college.

Senator Myrie also discussed that New York is planning to pass legislation that would allow for the continued “no excuse absentee balloting,” so that New York residents do not have to provide a valid reason in order to receive an absentee voting ballot.

“Our election system is often time left in the previous century,” Myrie said. “And how we do absentee ballots is one example.”

The uptick in young voter turnout this year means that future candidates and politicians will be forced to listen to younger people, simply due to their influence. Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins and Senator Myrie emphasized the importance of attending hearings and letting your voice be heard.

“Please pay attention to the redistricting process, which starts next year, which will allow students to have a voice in the process,” Myrie said. “I think that you should look up all the hearings that are happening, make sure you attend, make sure you give a voice to it, and say that we should not be disenfranchised simply because we’re young or simply because we’re on a campus.”

About Rachel Muller 46 Articles
Rachel Muller is a fourth-year journalism major with an international relations minor. This is her fourth semester on The Oracle and she was previously an assistant copy editor for news. She prefers writing news articles and articles about her travels.