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Party Affiliation Deadlines - A Conversation with Jarret Berg


NICOLE MCNULTY, HOST: New York City is overwhelmingly Democratic. There just aren’t that many Republicans. And now a new group called Be Counted is encouraging those Republicans to register... as Democrats. But the deadline, or deadlines, to switch party affiliations is confusing. Jarret Berg, an attorney and voting rights advocate is here to talk about it. Jarrett, thanks for being with us today.

JARRET BERG: Thrilled to do it. Thanks for raising this important issue.

MCNULTY: So these deadlines. The City Board is saying that the deadline is February 14th. The State board is saying it's February 12th. Why?

BERG: I can explain this and I will try to do it in it and then not too legalese way. This year in particular with the way that a very flawed law is written could disenfranchise people if they don't take action swiftly. So, Albany enacted a law, I mentioned, in the last two years that changed the party enrollment deadline to February 14th. But because it's pegged to a calendar date and not a particular amount of days before an election, obviously that moves around with each year. So, this year, February 14th lands on a Sunday. So the deadline is Sunday, but for practical purposes, if the offices aren't going to be open on the weekend, that's why you see the state board telling people to get those in by Friday. The deadline is that the board of elections must receive your change in enrollment by Sunday, February 14th. In New York City, the board will have an office that's open for people to walk in and do that. But for all intents and purposes, people need to get those forms in so that the board can receive it. So, that means if, if a person is sitting there today and they're not enrolled in a party, they should fill that form out and bring it to the Board of Elections today. Or tomorrow, there will be weekend hours, but it's not so easy to find where those offices are and what those hours are.

MCNULTY: So I'd really like to focus in on this group Be Counted. They essentially are trying to get to get people in the Republican party to register as Democrats. And they're framing it as 'you won't have a say in the election, if you're not a registered Democrat.' And I'm curious with that plus their misleading mailers, I'm just curious what you think about that and what groups like that are doing.

BERG: With the caveat that, uh, I'm an attorney and I haven't seen the ballers that you're talking about. So, if they're misleading as to dates and deadlines, and they're giving people incorrect information about their rights, that is illegal and it should be illegal and those should be prosecuted. So, um, from a voter protection standpoint, which is the world that I come out of, uh, we see pernicious efforts to misrepresent what people's rights are about. Who's entitled to vote and who's not with criminal justice issues with the hours and locations of voting that sort of misinformation is damaging and dangerous. And if it's intentional, it should absolutely be made more illegal and prosecuted. But if we're merely mailing people out a registration form and telling that if you're not enrolled in a party, you, you might want to enroll, if you'd like to vote in these primaries. I don't see anything illegal about that. And it's, if they're targeting certain segments of the population, I call that good organizing. I just don't think we can criminalize that.

MCNULTY: Jarret Berg is an attorney and voting rights advocate in New York. Jarret, thanks for being with us today.

BERG: Thanks for having me.

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