After all, this is a city where nearly 40% of the residents are foreign-born, over 60% speak a language other than English at home, and about 20%–or 1,480,072–of all registered voters are naturalized citizens or the U.S.-born children of immigrants.

“Engaging immigrant voters in the electoral process offers a unique opportunity to change the dynamics of civic engagement in the city,” said Murad Awawdeh, of the New York Immigration Coalition. The NYIC is the facilitator of the CEC [Civic Engagement Collaborative], a collective of community and social service groups that works to increase civic engagement and modernize New York’s election system.

With these goals in mind, the CEC, along with City Council members Carlos Menchaca (D-Brooklyn), Ydanis Rodríguez (D-Washington Heights), and Helen Rosenthal (D-Upper West Side), makes three useful and achievable policy recommendations.

First, increase accessibility of the electoral system by improving access to information, educating and engaging immigrants and all New Yorkers.

The Mayor’s office, Awawdeh said, is working to translate voter registration forms into the nine more common languages. The Board of Elections and Campaign Finance Board should also provide voter education materials in Arabic, Bengali, Chinese, French, Haitian Creole, Korean, Russian, Spanish and Urdu.

Second, the Student Voter Registration Day, launched March 20 in 25 high schools, should become a citywide program. With Presidential elections around the corner, this program, which educated more than 10,000 students and registered 2,000 new voters the day it was launched, is urgently needed to combat abysmally low voting turnout among city youth.


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