April 17, 2016

My Middle-aged White Lady Perspective: "Onerous" Voting Rules

Ivanka Trump, the 34 year old daughter of the Republican front-runner, has been a get-out-the-vote champion as she travels around the country supporting her father's campaign.

So has Eric Trump, her 32 year old brother.

Neither of them will be able to vote for their father in Tuesday's New York primary, because they are not registered to vote as Republicans.

The Trump kids told Anderson Cooper the other day that the problem was the rules in New York. According to Ivanka,
We're not a family of politicians. We haven't been in politics very long. New York has one of the most onerous rules in terms of registration, and it required us to register a long time ago - almost close to a year ago - and we didn't do that. We found out about it sort of after the fact.  
Eric added
It was kind of our first foray into politics. We didn't realize how the whole system worked. It was amazing. We actually made it a very big part of the campaign and there's no one that's been more visible on the campaign than the two of us, but we made it a very big part to get that message out...
 For his part, their father is taking it pretty well, noting
They had a long time to register and they were, you know, unaware of the rules, and they didn't, they didn't register in time. So they feel very, very guilty. But it's fine. I mean, I understand that.
It's now come to light that Trump himself was not able to vote in the 2012 primary, after endorsing Mitt Romney, because - you guessed it - he was not registered as a Republican. While he's been able to change his party designation several times, having been a Democrat, a Republican, an Independent and a 'no party' guy, he was not able to get his voter registration in line with his political positions in time.

So, I don't know about you, but I'm not from a "family of politicians" and I "haven't been in politics" at all -- I'm just a middle-aged white lady who has been registered to vote in New York since I was eighteen years old, because that's how we did things, I guess. Yes, my parents were teachers, but my friend who's dad drove a truck registered to vote, and my friend who's dad was a businessman registered to vote, and my friend with the stay-at-home mom registered to vote, too. Most of us registered in the party of our parents - which was not uncommon at that time - but I don't remember anyone who registered as a 'no party' person.

Why?  We all learned, way back then, that if you want to vote in a primary you have to be registered in a party. We also learned that, if you're registered in a party, you are not able to vote in another party's primary. We knew, all the way back then, that it mattered how you registered, because if you wanted to participate in choosing the candidates who made it into the general election, regardless of whether it was a local, state, or national race, you had to be registered as a party member.

NY Voter Registration Form screen capture
New York's voter registration form points that out, for people who might not have been aware.

Try looking at this from a different perspective: would anyone be in favor of having the Red Sox make personnel decisions for the Yankees? Would it make any sense at all for my company to let a competitor make our hiring decisions?

Of course not.

You know what happens if you register in a political party?  You get mail from candidates and elected officials.  You get phone calls reminding you to vote.  You get asked, sometimes, to sign nominating petitions. And sometimes you get surveys.  No one spies over your shoulder to see if you're voting in line with your registration. The only time anyone looks over your shoulder is if you try and vote in the primary for a party you chose not to join.

I understand that some people might not know that New York doesn't have open primaries (which is a good thing, in my opinion), and that if a person wanted to be able to vote in the primary here, they needed to make a party designation change by October 9, 2015 - not by "almost close to a year ago" as Ivanka said. New voters had until March 25th to register, in a party, to be eligible to vote in the primary on Tuesday.

I don't feel that the rules are 'onerous' -- the instructions are clear on the NYS Board of Elections web site, and political campaigns have typically been aware of the rules that apply in each state, so as to ensure their best opportunity to get the votes they want come primary or caucus time. Generally, well -organized campaigns spend time educating people well in advance, to not lose out on potential voters.

And the rules are certain less onerous when we're talking about the second generation of a family that doesn't know how it works, especially when the kids complaining should have been voting in primaries for a number of years by now. Blaming the rules, and missing primaries, seem to be family traits.

If these kids - one a Wharton School grad, the other a Georgetown alum - who have all possible benefits, knowledge, and access, kids who are making it their mission to ensure there's a yuge pool of voters for their father in states across the country, (and who apparently learned nothing from their father having exactly the same problem previously) can't figure it out, how the heck are we supposed to Make America Great Again?