FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 14, 2006
MAYOR BLOOMBERG KICKS OFF MONTH-LONG VOTER EDUCATION AND AWARENESS CAMPAIGN
First-Ever Voter Awareness Month Coordinates Efforts of City’s Civic Groups to Increase Voter Participation with Citywide Registration Drives and Other Events;
Campaign Urges New Americans, Young New Yorkers and Underrepresented Populations to Take Advantage of Right to Vote
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, Voter Assistance Commission (VAC ) Executive Director Onida Coward Mayers, Myrlie Evers-Williams, the wife of slain civil rights leader Medgar Evers, and Dr. Carolyn Goodman and David Goodman, the mother and brother of murdered civil rights activist Andrew Goodman, today kicked off Voter Awareness Month, the first-ever five-borough coordinated campaign to promote voter education, awareness and participation. From September 14 to October 13, VAC and the campaign’s other sponsors – The New York Times and The City University of New York – will partner with more than 20 civic organizations to hold scores of registration drives, public forums and other events across the five boroughs. Additionally, a public service announcement will run on local stations including WNBC, Fox 5, and New York 1, and the Times will twice run a voter assistance calendar of events. The campaign focuses specifically on new Americans, the young, women, and traditionally underrepresented groups. Deputy Mayor for Legal Affairs Carol A. Robles-Román, VAC Chairman Jeffrey Kraus, Councilmember Simcha Felder, and CUNY Chancellor Matthew Goldstein, also joined the Mayor at the announcement at the Schomburg Center in Harlem.
“Heroes like Medgar Evers and Andrew Goodman gave their lives in the struggle to make sure all Americans have the right to vote, but not enough New Yorkers take advantage of that right,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “Voter Awareness Month is an unprecedented effort to extend participation in the most fundamental exercise of our freedoms. I encourage all New Yorkers who are not registered to vote to register by October 13, and those who are registered to take an active role in our democracy and vote on November 7.”
“Every vote does count, and every New Yorker who wants to see progress in our City and country should exercise their right to vote,” said New York City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn. “The Council welcomes this initiative, which we hope will inspire New Yorkers to get informed, get involved and to make sure their voices are heard.”
“We are blessed in the United States to enjoy freedoms that so many across the world are denied,” said Executive Director Coward Mayers. “Voting is not just a right, but it’s our responsibility. With initiatives such as the Voter Awareness Month, we hope to maximize voter registration and turnout.”
Voter Awareness Month, which includes over 60 events across the five boroughs, is by far the most extensive pre-election registration and participation campaign ever undertaken by the Voter Assistance Commission. The events start today with a Korean American League for Civil Action town hall-style meeting in Midtown Manhattan featuring gubernatorial candidates, and will end in Brooklyn on October 13 with a naturalization ceremony and voter registration drive for new citizens. Other events scheduled include a Citizenship Day to encourage new Americans to vote, which will be held at Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn on September 15; six Hispanic Federation voter registration drives in the Bronx in September and October; a Chinese American Voters Association voter registration drive in Queens on October 7; and a youth engagement symposium at Wagner College on Staten Island on October 4.
The aim of Voter Awareness Month is to increase electoral participation among New Yorkers. Overall voter turnout in elections has declined significantly over the past few decades. Turnout among minority groups, new Americans, and the young is traditionally lower than average, thus the Month will specifically focus on those populations. Voter Awareness Month builds upon other VAC programs to inform voters and encourage voting, including the Video Voter Guide, the national Telly award-winning initiative that gave candidates free television air time on NYC TV last year for the first time ever.
CUNY and The New York Times provided valuable assistance and resources to VAC for the campaign. CUNY TV produced a 30-second public service advertisement that will run free-of-charge on WNBC, Fox 5, New York 1, NYC TV, News 12 and CUNY TV during September and October. A Spanish subtitled version of the advertisement will be broadcast on Telemundo; Korean and Mandarin Chinese subtitled versions will also be available. The New York Times has agreed to publish two calendars of events, one in September and one in October. Additionally, VAC partnered with more than 20 community organizations across the city to host and assist with each event.
The first NAACP field officer in Mississippi, Medgar Evers faced frequent death threats from white supremacists that feared his integration efforts in the early 1960s. Despite the danger, Evers continued to organize boycotts and civil right demonstrations. Early one morning in June 1963, Evers was shot in the back of the head by a Ku Klux Klan member outside his house in Jackson, Mississippi.
Born and raised in New York City and a student at Queens College, CUNY, Andrew Goodman volunteered to register Blacks to vote in Mississippi in 1964. Along with fellow civil rights activists Michael Schwerner and James Chaney, Goodman was murdered by Ku Klu Klan members outside Meriden, Mississippi. The murderers of both Evers and Goodman were not brought to justice until decades after the killings.
“It is of the utmost importance not only to remember, but to take action that builds upon the legacies of Medgar Evers and Andrew Goodman, who were martyred fighting for fundamental civil rights such as that of a citizen to vote,” said Councilmember Felder.
“The CUNY system has the most comprehensive voter registration and citizenship program of any university in the country,” said CUNY Chancellor Goldstein. “We take enormous pride in our system-wide efforts to help students participate in the democratic process. In the post-9/11 world, where democracy continues to come under attack, the exercise of the right to vote takes on special significance. I commend Mayor Bloomberg, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and the Voter Assistance Commission for reaching out to New Yorkers across the city, particularly to those who have often felt forgotten.”
“The fundamental act of voting is central to our democracy,” said Executive Director of Community Affairs McNulty. “It is the key to freedom, the key to progress and the key to exercising one’s individual rights. And not only is it critical that every eligible citizen cast his or her ballot, but also that those of us here today inspire future generations to participate in the process.”
For more information on Voter Awareness Month, log on to www.nyc.gov/voter or call 311.
The NYC Voter Assistance Commission is a non-partisan independent City agency, established by the City Charter. Its mandate is to encourage and facilitate voter registration and voting by all eligible United States citizens residing in New York City. VAC does not promote any candidate for elected office, political party, or political agenda. VAC's mission is to increase participation in the democratic process. To achieve this goal, VAC monitors voter registration and voting in New York City. VAC also works with Mayoral agencies, private groups and individuals, and community-based organizations to promote voter awareness and participation. VAC is comprised of 16 Commissioners and its day-to-day operations are managed by the Coordinator/Executive Director. The Coordinator is charged specifically by the Charter to encourage and facilitate voter registration and voting by all eligible residents of the City.
Stu Loeser/ Matthew Kelly (212) 788-2958
View the photos
Voter Awareness Month Calendar (in pdf)
Watch the video in 56k or 300k