New Yorkers can now register to vote online without ID

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. – Voting is a constitutional right, but it takes some legwork to exercise that right. The first step is to register in advance. Tuesday, the process in New York State got just a little bit easier: the NYS Board of Elections launched their online voter registration system, through the board itself. The new website allows Americans to register online without a license, state ID, or social security card.

“It’s the same — it really doesn’t change it. It’s just more convenient,” President of the Rochester League of Women Voters Barbara Grosh said.

For the past ten years, Grosh has been working with the League to sign people up and get them to the polls. It’s a mission she finds essential for a healthy democracy.

“If some people don’t vote, their interests don’t get taken care of,” Grosh said. “And we can see that in the city of Rochester. There’s very, very low turnout in the formerly redlined neighborhoods, and those neighborhoods are still not getting what they need. They’re getting ignored.”

A few years ago, New York State launched their online voter registration system through the Department of Motor Vehicles, but Grosh said the system has its flaws. 

“The DMV website is — every time I’ve had to deal with it, I’ve found it difficult,” she laughed, citing instances of endless password resetting and account lockouts.

The registration process takes less than five minutes from start to finish. To register, interested individuals must first create an account with New York State’s website — a process that involves a name, address, and email. After logging in, new voters are walked through a series of short questions, and asked for ID if they have any. Once they hit submit, they’re done.

Previously, voters who did not have social security cards or licenses were only able to register in-person. The day of the election, they are asked for an alternative form of identification at the polls. Now, they will go through the exact same process, only their registration can be completed on a computer or smartphone.

Grosh says she’s excited for the rollout of a new online system, and she’s not the only one.

“I think it increases access to [registration],” Stephen DeVay, Chair of the Monroe County Democratic Committee, said. “It just frankly really isn’t any different than what we have today, it just makes it easier for people to vote.”

Over at the Monroe County Board of Elections office, Republican Commissioner Lisa Nicolay is a bit less excited for the rollout — for her and the rest of the board members, the new website just means a bit more administrative work.

“I think there will be a lot of duplicates,” she said. “Anyone who does a voter registration form, whether it’s electronic or in person or through the mail — they all get processed the exact same way.”

Nicolay said she wasn’t sure the new system was entirely necessary — citing that the majority of eligible voters in Monroe County are already registered. This new change will encourage other state offices to check voter registration. If New Yorkers change their address, get a new doctor, or have another administrative need, the state office they go to will now have a new website to funnel eligible voters to.

But behind the scenes, it’s business as usual for the Board of Elections.

“We only process it if it’s a legitimate true new or updated voter registration form, so there’s no security concern.”

Voters looking to register can test out the new system in time for the primaries. Registration, party switches, or change of addresses must be completed by June 17 in order to vote in the June 27 primaries. To learn more about the new system, click here.