With New York Voter Participation at All-Time Lows,
New #PromoteTheVote Campaign Aims to Increase
Turnout for State's Presidential Primary
Nonpartisan Initiative Enlists Employers to Encourage Employees to
Vote Employers Can Sign Up at PromoteTheVote.nyc
New York, NY – The Association for a Better New York (ABNY) and the Partnership for New York City, along with elected officials, civic, business and labor groups and non-for-profit organizations, today launched the #PromoteTheVote campaign, a first-of-its-kind effort to increase voter turnout in New York. With state voter participation among the lowest in the nation, this new nonpartisan initiative will enlist employers in a push to encourage employees to get to the polls for New York’s April 19 presidential primary.
Today’s announcement also featured the launch of a new website, PromoteTheVote.nyc, where employers can sign up and join the effort. The website includes informational material that can be posted publicly in workplaces to inform employees of state laws that support voting rights.
“When New York falls short at the polls, we lose our voice in the democratic process,” said ABNY Chairman Bill Rudin. “No matter your politics or background, all New Yorkers have a stake in choosing candidates who will shape the future of our city, state and nation. We are excited to work with employers across the city and state to empower employees and help get more New Yorkers to the polls than ever before.”
“New York State law requires that employers provide notification to all employees that they have the right to two hours to exercise their right to vote,” said Kathryn Wylde, President and CEO of the Partnership for New York City. “This campaign is a friendly reminder of that obligation, in hopes it will get more New Yorkers to the polls and engaged in the political process.”
“Voting is one of the most powerful acts in democracy,” said Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. “It is how we hold government accountable, affect meaningful change, and push our society forward. New York, however, has one of the lowest voter turnouts in the country – and that needs to change. I thank ABNY and the Partnership for New York City and our city’s employers for raising awareness about our civic responsibility and helping New Yorkers get to the polls.”
New York has been struggling with low voter turnout for years. Statewide voter turnout in the 2014 midterm elections ranked among the worst in the nation — 46th out of 50 states — with just 28.8 percent of eligible voters going to the polls. In 2008, the last time both major parties held a primary, only 19 percent of eligible New York City voters turned out.
Many New Yorkers may not be aware that state law enables all eligible voters to take time to go to the polls regardless of their work schedule. Under Section 3-110 of the Consolidated Laws of New York, businesses are required to give up to two hours of paid leave to employees whose work schedules do not already provide them with a reasonable amount of time to vote.
The #PromoteTheVote campaign will enlist New York’s employers in a collaborative effort to make all employees aware of the law and encourage them to take advantage of this benefit to vote in the April 19 primary.
Civic, business and labor groups already supporting the campaign include the Greater New York Hospital Association, the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York, the Alliance for Downtown New York, the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce, the Staten Island Chamber of Commerce and the New York League of Conservation Voters.
“With so many important issues at stake, including the direction of the nation’s health care delivery system, it has never been more important for New Yorkers to exercise their right to vote than right now,” said Greater New York Hospital Association President Kenneth E. Raske. “The health care community can be a major force at the polls, and I strongly encourage New York’s health care workers to head to the polls and cast their votes.”
“Increasing voter participation fundamentally strengthens our democracy," said Gary LaBarbera, president of the 100,000 member Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York. "The best way to ensure policies that help working families across the state is by voting. We urge other labor groups, as well as businesses across the state to join in this voter empowerment effort.”
“Our voting rights are the bedrock of self-determination and the muscles of our democracy. Getting out to vote and expressing your choice is a vital civic duty,” said Jessica Lappin, President of the Alliance for Downtown New York. “The #PromoteTheVote campaign will engage New York’s employers to enlist them in the fight to increase turn out. Making sure all New Yorkers understand they are entitled to the time to participate in this year’s important election is a great goal.”
“New Yorkers have never been shy about giving their opinion,” said Tucker Reed, President of the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, “but it doesn’t matter how loud our voice is if we don’t put those words into action and vote. We are excited to partner on this important initiative and do our part to empower our community to show up at the polls.”
“New York tends to lead the nation in most areas, so it makes no sense that the passionate residents of America’s greatest city repeatedly fail to exercise their democratic right to vote,” said Carlo A. Scissura, President and CEO of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce. “Business owners should encourage their employees to head to the polls on primary day, and this is a terrific initiative that will hopefully increase voter turnout across the five boroughs.”
“Entrepreneurs are often consumed with starting and running their businesses so may not be aware of this little-known law,” said Jessica Walker, President of the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce. “Our campaign aims to educate employers about the power they hold to help increase voter turnout.”
“It is vitally important that as many people as possible participate in our local and national elections and primaries,” says Linda Baran, President and CEO of the Staten Island Chamber of Commerce. “While a great majority of our borough’s businesses (many of which are strong community partners and neighbors) allow more-than-ample time for their employees to fulfill their civic duties, we encourage increased awareness and flexibility among employers and employees alike when it comes voting and elections.”
"Voting runs deeper than an obligation to do our civic duty: elections have real consequences,” said Marcia Bystryn, President of the New York League of Conservation Voters. “The representatives we choose make decisions on our behalf that have a tangible effect on issues like the environment and on our everyday lives. By making it easier for citizens to get to the polls, the Promote the Vote Campaign will encourage people to become more informed and engaged in the process. That's great news for the health of our democracy and we're proud to support this initiative."
The #PromoteTheVote campaign looks forward to working with elected officials to support voter participation among employees across New York, regardless of party affiliation or candidate of choice.
“I am excited to help #PromoteTheVote with my friends at ABNY, the Partnership for New York City, and across the private sector,” said Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams. “Our state's voter turnout rate is abysmal, and the lack of civic participation is having a direct impact on the health of our democracy. I ask every Brooklyn employer to join us in reminding their workers about their right to take time and vote. When New Yorkers are engaged in the political process — as frustrating as it may be at times — we see positive results in our communities. In the months ahead, I will be working hard at Brooklyn Borough Hall and beyond to encourage every Brooklynite — regardless of their party affiliation — to make their voice count this coming election season.”
“Voter participation is critical to the civic health and well-being of our city, our state and our nation,” said Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. “With a hotly-contested presidential primary just days away it is incumbent on all New Yorkers to ensure that their voices are heard by participating in the electoral process. I encourage all New Yorkers—Democrats and Republicans alike—to participate in the upcoming primaries, and I am proud to join ABNY in their campaign to #PromoteTheVote.”
“Over a career in public service, I’ve learned that government does its best work when the people – all of us – are watching, speaking out, participating, and voting, and it does its worst when we aren’t paying attention,” said Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer. “With three primary elections this year and pundits talking about ‘voter fatigue,’ we must do everything we can to remind our neighbors to vote in every election, starting with the April 19 presidential primary. Higher turnout will drive higher expectations and better results.”
"I applaud ABNY and the Partnership for New York City on this innovative and engaging campaign. And, in this exciting presidential election season, I hope more New Yorkers will be able to get to the polls on April 19th as a result of their hard work," said Council Member Dan Garodnick.
“All eligible voters should be empowered to do their civic obligation and vote. Considering New York State’s low voter turnout – ranked 46th out of 50 states – it is important to use various tools to encourage people to vote, and the #PromoteTheVote campaign is a positive step,” said Council Member Ritchie Torres of the Bronx. “Informing employees of their right to 2 hours of paid-time will help in getting people to the polls and reduce anxiety that comes with potentially losing paid work-time. This is an important initiative that will helpful spur increased voter turnout in our state’s presidential primary.”
“Just as I encourage all employers to follow the law in allowing ample time for their workers to vote, I urge those employees to exercise that right in the primary and general elections,” said Council Member Margaret Chin. The issues confronting our city, state and nation are too important to leave to a privileged few. I thank members of this campaign for reminding businesses of their obligations, and encouraging more people to get out and vote.”
"No one should have to choose between their pay and their vote," said Council Member Ben Kallos, chair of the Committee on Governmental Operations, which has oversight over the Board of Elections. "I encourage all employers to promote civic participation by giving employees more flexibility on Election Day."