EDITORIAL NOTE: This guest blog post was written by Jackie Leahy, intern for the League of Women Voter of the City of New York
On Tuesday, September 23, the League of Women Voters of the City of New York hosted an event in honor of National Voter Registration Day (NVRD) - a 50 state effort to register voters before Election Day. This event was built upon the success of last year’s event in Bryant Park. This year we asked voters to tell us why they #JustSayYEStoVoting and we registered nearly 60 new voters!
The event, held at City Hall Park, heard from celebrated speakers, including Elisabeth MacNamara, National President, League of Women Voters; Patricia Lubin, Senior Counsel to Senator Kirsten Gillibrand; Mike Ryan, Executive Director of the NYC Board of Elections; and Onida Coward Mayers, Director of Voter Assistance of NYC Votes. Youth Poet Laureate 2014, Ramya Ramana, also gave a reading and a number of members of City Council stopped by the event.
In addition to the featured speakers, attendees enjoyed live music provided by Hot97 and a live vote-themed 10'x12' art installation by Lady Pink, an artist famous for her New York City murals. “I was excited to vote when I first become a U.S. citizen, but disappointed to learn that so few citizens participate," Lady Pink said in advance of the event. "The mural I am creating at the NVRD event will symbolize the power and struggle I see behind the word VOTE. It’s good to see groups like the NYC League of Women Voters trying to make a difference.”
The event aimed to educate as well as entertain. With the help of program partner, the New York City Board of Elections, visitors used a mock poll site featuring a real scanner, privacy booth and ballot-marking device. The ballot asked users to select one of five reasons why we should VOTE. Participants in the National Voter Registration Day event also learned about New York's suffrage history from re-enactors playing prominent early 20th century rabble-rousers including Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Alice Paul.
The event was inspired, in part by New York state's low election voter turnout in the last gubernatorial election voter turnout; due in large part to our low number of eligible registered voters, New York state ranked lowest in the nation. Founded in 1920, the League of Women Voters is a nonpartisan organization that seeks to help New Yorkers understand the voting process by helping them register to vote and demonstrating how to use the recently introduced ballot scanner system.
It isn’t too late to celebrate National Voter Registration Day and to register to vote for the first time, update your voter registration if you have moved, or ask your friends and family to make sure they’re registered. Then don’t forget to tell us why you #JustSayYEStoVoting!