Focusing on voter registration – QNS.com

Focusing on voter registration

Voter participation is historically low in primaries and special elections and the city is looking for help to get residents more involved in the electoral process.
The New York City Campaign Finance Board (CFB) is trying to use the only election this year as a way to help get more residents registered to vote.
“We want to make sure that we educate all community residents on the elections that are coming up, that they understand what their voting rights are, that they understand how to participate and that we encourage them to participate,” said Onida Coward Mayers, director of voter assistance for the CFB.
The only citywide race this year is for the District 28 City Council seat, which includes parts of south Jamaica, south Ozone Park and Richmond Hill.
With voter turnout rates so low, the board is using that election as a way to ramp up their voter awareness and registration efforts – targeting a select area and group and analyzing the methods that work best to implement them in future election years. By collecting data and seeing what works, the board hopes it can engage, inform and register as many people as possible.
To get the word out, the CFB hosted an information session at Community Bboard 12 in Jamaica last week to reach out to residents in that neighborhood for help. Armed with PowerPoint presentations and information packets – representatives from the board urged those that attended to help spread their message: get out and vote. The board’s voter awareness efforts were launched in 2006.
In the 2010 general election for New York State governor, the voter turnout rate for the Jamaica area was about 30 to 35 percent, according to data compiled by the CFB. In the 2009 general election for mayor, about 10 percent less showed up to the polls.
Out of about 2.3 million people living in the borough, 336,000 voted in the governor’s election and about 280,000 voted in the mayoral race, according to data from the New York City Board of Elections.
“People just don’t know how important their vote is – they think that their vote is one in a million as opposed to one in a thousand,” said Greg Mays, founder and director of A Better Jamaica, a nonprofit that fosters community involvement.
Mays attended the information session to find out how he could increase voter participation rates in the area.
The voices of communities with larger voter turnout rates are usually heard because politicians target those areas to get votes, while communities like Jamaica often get overlooked, Mays said.
“They think their voice is a small one when in fact it’s a rather large voice and they just don’t even know it,” he said.

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