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Waves of Queens residents and grass roots organizations have done everything from attending naturalization ceremonies to knocking on neighbors’ doors to register thousands of new voters to cast their ballots in what Make the Road New York Co−executive Director Ana Maria Archila calls a “historic election.”
“We’re hoping to reach between 19,000 and 21,000 people in the city,” said Archila, a recent U.S. citizen, originally from Colombia, who will be voting for the first time this election.
“In Queens, we have tried to reach around 6,000 people, primarily in the neighborhoods of Sunnyside, Woodside, Jackson Heights, Corona, Ozone Park, Richmond Hill and Kew Gardens,” she said.
“This year is a very special year because people feel very excited about the election,” Archila added. “They feel a sense of commitment to participation, and the kind of skepticism we see normally is definitely less than usual.”
Many of those newly registered are often immigrants or younger people, said Ron Hayduk, who runs the Immigrant Voting Project and has worked with groups like The New York Coalition to Expand Voting Rights to register voters, especially in Hayduk’s Jackson Heights neighborhood.
“We’re registering voters, but once they’re registered we want people to know not to leave the polling site without voting,” Hayduk said, concerned that new voters would be dissuaded from voting if asked, in most cases illegally, to provide identification.
“People have a right to vote,” he said. “But make sure you’re registered. You can go to the New York State Board of Elections Web site to check or call the city Board of Elections.”
Efforts throughout Queens to register new voters have proven especially successful for Democrats.
According to the city Board of Elections, 6,859 new voters enrolled in Senate District 11, which covers a portion of northeastern Queens, between January and August. Of those voters, 4,038 are Democrats and 711 are Republicans.
Democrats overwhelmingly outnumber Republicans in the district, which state Sen. Frank Padavan (R−Bellerose) and City Councilman Jim Gennaro (D−Fresh Meadows), his challenger, are running to represent, with 88,494 Democrats living in the area compared to 33,123 Republicans.
Ebette Fortune, a second−year student at CUNY Law, has been focusing on registering members of a population that often does not know it has the right to vote: former felons.
“A lot of people think if they have a felony conviction, they think they can’t vote because that’s the way it is in a lot of other states,” Fortune said. “But if you’re off probation and parole, you can register to vote.”
Ali Najmy, a CUNY Law student from Glen Oaks, said he and a former CUNY Law student, Gurpal Singh, of Richmond Hill, have registered about 300 residents in the Ozone Park⁄Richmond Hill area since August.
“We have been in the temples, at festivals and at fairs,” Najmy said.
©2008 Community Newspaper Group
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