Originally Published: May 14, 2015
As the City Council acknowledges the success of the first Student Voter Registration Day (SVRD) pilot program today, the SVRD Coalition calls on the New York City Department of Education to make the initiative a permanent citywide program in New York.
This single-day program educates New York City high school students about the importance of voting and civic engagement. The pilot program launched on Friday, March 20, 2015, and on that single day, registered over 2,000 students in 25 schools across the city. March was chosen for its significance as the month in which the 26th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution granting 18-year olds the right to vote was ratified.
Student Voter Registration Day is a highly critical program given the current state of our city’s civic health; in the 2013 Mayoral election only 11% of registered youth voters (ages 18-29) cast a ballot. SVRD doesn’t just register students to vote; it tackles voter apathy head on by engaging students in a conversation about the importance of being active members of their community through a comprehensive civics curriculum. This program also establishes healthy civic habits early on, which can lead to higher turnout in adulthood. The success of SVRD’s pilot, as evidenced by the number of students that participated and registered, leads the Coalition to believe that we can accomplish a great deal more if implemented on a citywide scale.
The Coalition is comprised of diverse civic organizations from across the city; the groups share the common goal of tackling the issue of low participation, registration, and turnout. Citizens Union, Common Cause New York, Generation Citizen, the New York Immigration Coalition, the New York Public Interest Research Group, the League of Women Voters of the City of New York, the Women’s City Club of New York, and a number of other community groups worked together to make this day a huge success with our government partners. We thank Council Member Helen Rosenthal and NYC Votes, a project of the NYC Campaign Finance Board, for their leadership, and acknowledge the important contributions of the New York City Board of Elections. We would also like to recognize the many city council members who participated in SVRD at schools in their district, providing an inspiring opportunity for students to interface directly with their councilmember, who sat in their seats at one time.
We want to thank the Department of Education in particular for its work in helping to pilot SVRD and urge them to build upon this year’s success by implementing SVRD on a citywide scale. The Coalition will continue to provide support and is available to assist in the implementation of Student Voter Registration Day in the years ahead.