Since last November, more than 60,000 registered Democrats living in Brooklyn have suddenly unregistered and nobody seems to know why.
Even though both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have high-profile headquarters in the borough and a majority of other counties in New York have seen net increases in registered Democrats, Brooklyn seemingly lost 7% of its Democratic voters.
According to WNYC, neither the New York City Board of Elections nor the New York State Board of Elections could provide concrete reasons as to why the drop-off was so dramatic and sudden. But the organizations were quick to explain that registration numbers do naturally fluctuate over time due to a number of reasons tied to New York City. Chief among them is the fact that young New Yorkers are prone to moving.
“The pool of voters shifts around from active to inactive, inactive to active, and off the list completely through normal list maintenance activities that each county board undertakes on an continuous basis,” the New York State Board of Elections Deputy Director of Public InformationThomas E. Connolly explained to WNYC.
There are a couple of reasons that a voter can be deactivated including being convicted of a felony or deemed mentally incompetent in court. Additionally, though, if a voter fails to cast their votes in two Federal Elections in a row, they can "purged from the system."
As WNYC points out, the number of recorded newly inactive voters in Brooklyn only rose by about 10,000, meaning that more than 50,000 are in the wind. All of this comes just as the New York Democratic primaries have opened and hundreds of Democrats are learning that they won't be able to participate.
New York is a closed primary state with election laws stating that in order to participate in the presidential primary, a voter must have been registered to the party of their choice by the previous November. In the five months between the cutoff deadline and the primary itself, there have been eight more Democratic debates. Moreover, the state's closed election rules have made it so that millions of New Yorkers are ineligible to vote.
Now, some New York Democrats are crying foul and suing for the state to convert to an open primary, which would allow people to vote for whomever they wanted without having to jump through hoops months in advance.
“If the primary were open, this would be a non-issue for thousands of registered voters that have had this happen to them,” voting rights activist Shyla Nelson told the New York Daily News. “By making the primary open, it eliminates one of the most vexing problems New Yorkers have dealt with in this primary season. It’s a threat to the democratic process."
Today, Nelson and other activists encouraged those voters shut out by the election law to show up to their polling places demanding to use provisional ballots, which they are allowed to do.
“We are encouraging all independent and disenfranchised voters to VOTE (Tuesday) by provisional ballot,” Nelson said. “They should tell poll workers that there is a motion pending in Federal District Court to declare the primary open.”
Update: District Judge Joanna Seybert has denied the emergency request for New York to become an open primary.