Did you know it's impossible to register to vote in New York?

Ari Spool

Voting is sad.

by Eyebodega

So, let's just say you're me: a typical 26 year-old female living in the big city. You don't make much, but you work all the time. You move a lot, sometimes more than once a year, for a variety of reasons. You read the news, and it makes you angry. You've occupied a little, but your work prevents you from being a regular down at Zucotti, so you are looking for other things you can do. You remember your civics classes: the first Tuesday of November approacheth! Voting time. Who even knows what's up for election right now, on this off-year, but let's check it out.

Here's the New York State Board of Elections website. It looks like shit, but whatever. Maybe it has the answer to the two questions I have: A) What is being voted on in the 2011 elections in New York State? and B) Am I registered to vote, and if not, how do I do it?

The first question seems a little easy. Just click on that button there that says “Want to know who is on the ballot?” Then it asks you to download a .PDF, which I've done here for your benefit.

Oh, you don't live in East Amherst, NY? Then maybe you don't even HAVE to vote this year! Just kidding. There are things for everyone to vote on, but they haven't been filled in on that website. For no reason. If you want a much better list of everyone on the ballot, but only for New York City, you can go to this other website, but basically, unless you are New York City or East Amherst, NY, information is kinda hard to find. There's also this thing, which will give you a sample ballot of your district if you live in New York City, but I had to have someone else do research to find it. I would say about 30 minutes of my life and my research partner's life went in to simply finding out what there is to vote about. This doesn't include any research on what choices one should make when you actually go to cast your vote. Who even knows who any of these people are?

Let's move on to the second question. Am I registered to vote currently? Like I said, I'm 26 and I don't make a lot of money so I end up moving around a lot because I don't live with my parents. This isn't an unusual situation. I have lived in New York for 3 years, and I recently got my driver's license, which, I thought, automatically registered me. But I want to double-check, so I click the button back on that main page. “Want to find out if you're registered and where you vote?” Yes. Yes I do.

BUT MY COMPUTER SAYS NO THANK YOU. Apparently, this government-run site doesn't have a trusted security certificate, like it was full of Chinese spy-ware or something. (Disclaimer: I don't actually know what a security certificate is. But doesn't this page look so scary?) I decide to trust the certificate anyways and go through and fill in the form, only to find out that I am not, in fact, registered.

So I go back to the main page, and click on the button “Need a voter registration form?” This takes me to a page with the deadlines and where you can register. Turns out, the deadlines passed a couple of weeks ago. Fucking great. Well, I guess I should do it anyways, so this doesn't happen for the next election, which is gonna be a doozy. Maybe there is a convenient location in my neighborhood where I can register, like my local library or post office or YMCA?

OH. NO. No YMCA. No post office. No library. The only places where you can physically register to vote in New York State are places that you would never want to willingly walk into, because you don't want to waste half of your day. The Department of Motor Vehicles. Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services. Military Recruiting Offices. Office of Mental Health. I guess the city and state university is fine, but not local. And can you imagine walking into an office for Vocational and Educational Services for Individuals with Disabilities and saying, “Oh, I am just here to register to vote.” I bet everyone would look at you all crazy, like “Um, we have better things to do. Like helping people with disabilities. Figure it out your damn self!”

So basically, if you aren't registered in New York, don't even think about it. You're screwed. Sorry. Guess you'll just have to find more time for Zucotti.

Lots of thanks to Dana Chisnell for the research. Main image wingding madness by Eyebodega.

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