From the NY Times:
ON Primary Day this month, New York voters faced numerous delays and equipment malfunctions at the polls. In some cases residents stood in line for hours, leading state politicians to make accusations of disenfranchisement and resulting in three government investigations.
But New York’s leaders have ignored the larger issues that drive down the state’s voter participation rates, in particular the electoral calendar: New York holds its primary at the worst possible time of the electoral season, and it remains among the shrinking minority of states that still don’t allow early voting.
This year’s low turnout — just 13 percent among Democrats and 16 percent among Republicans — was nothing new. In 2009 there was near record-low voting in New York City’s mayoral election. And while low turnout is a concern nationwide, New York consistently ranks near the bottom.
One reason for such poor participation is that New York’s primary falls on the second Tuesday of September. This year, during the 10 days leading up to it, candidates vied for voter attention against Labor Day travel, the first days of school, the beginning of the Jewish New Year, the end of Ramadan and the solemn 9/11 remembrances.
New York further deters participation in elections by refusing to allow early voting. “Being too busy” is the No. 1 reason nonvoters say they sit elections out; in response, about two-thirds of the states now permit some form of early voting (as distinct from absentee voting, which typically requires that voters give an acceptable reason for not going to the polls on Election Day).
Moving up New York’s primary and allowing early voting are easy ways to increase democratic participation. True, they wouldn’t get every New Yorker to the polls. But they would take away a number of well-worn excuses.