By Kathy Hochul
In 1848, 300 women (and a few enlightened men) from across the country gathered in Seneca Falls, New York, for the first women’s rights convention. Together, these women would create a radical narrative that transformed the nation: women are equal to men and deserve the same rights.
There, they drafted a resolution demanding various rights. The most controversial was “to secure to themselves their sacred right to the elective franchise” – in other words, the right to vote.
Although women do have the right to vote today, there are still many obstacles that prevent them from exercising it. One such challenge is the time allotted to cast one’s ballot.
In New York, working parents are out of luck – their only chance to vote is on Election Day. I know what it’s like to be a working parent: rush in the morning to get your kids on the school bus, then rush to work, then rush back home to pick up the kids, feed them dinner, and put them to bed. New York’s voters deserve better.
An easy way for New York to make the vote more accessible for all is to enact early voting and automatic voter registration. Across the nation, thirty-seven states hold some type of early voting, allowing residents a chance to vote up to two weeks before Election Day. Automatic voter registration would sign up eligible New Yorkers when they visit state government agencies like the DMV, unless they choose to opt out.
Because most primary caregivers are women, early voting is also a women’s rights issue.
According to a 2016 study by the American Community Survey, 66% of New York mothers work full time while their children are infants. Early voting would give New York mothers the chance to vote at a time that accommodates their hectic lives.
We know that women want to vote. In states where early voting is permitted, women often turn out at higher rates. In the 2016 presidential election, women took to the ballot box early (and often) in eligible states such as North Carolina, Florida, and Georgia. Two weeks before Election Day in North Carolina, 147,000 women versus 102,000 men had cast their ballots. In Florida, about 55 percent of the 880,000 people who voted early were women, despite making up less than 53% of the state’s registered voters.
One hundred and seventy years ago, New York was a proud incubator for progressive ideas. Today, it is embarrassing that our voter turnout rate consistently ranks one of the lowest in the nation. With early voting and automatic voter registration, women will have a greater voice in electing our leaders and shaping the future for our children.
To honor the legacy of the bold women of Seneca Falls, join me in fighting for early voting and automatic voter registration in New York this legislative session.
Kathy Hochul is lieutenant governor of New York.
 American Community Survey, Feb 8, 2018.