New York State Senator Zellnor Y. Myrie Champions Increased Voter Participation

New York State Senator Zellnor Y. Myrie Champions Increased Voter Participation

New York State Senator Zellnor Y. Myrie Champions Increased Voter Participation

“As the Chair of the Elections Committee, I view my role very much through a civil rights prism.” —Zellnor Y. Myrie

As an institution committed to sustaining just societies, advancing public service, and promoting ethical leadership, there could be no better place for New York State Senator Zellnor Y. Myrie to talk about the importance of participating in our democracy. On October 29, as a part of our “Emerging Leaders of Justice” speaker series and John Jay Rocks the Vote, Myrie, the Chair of the Elections Committee, talked to the John Jay community about his work on early voting, automatic voter registration, increasing prison minimum wage, and criminal justice reform. He also implored our students—and young people in general—to use their voices and their votes to influence the trajectory of our country. We had a chance to sit down with Myrie and learn more about what drives his passion for increased voter participation in New York State.

Myrie
Myrie

“We have no choice but to engage in this democracy, so that we can see it start returning what we’re putting in.” —Zellnor Y. Myrie

How do you hope to enhance voter participation in New York State?
In the state legislature this year we took a lot of important steps to increase voter participation. Unfortunately, here in New York we have some of the lowest voter participation rates in the entire United States. So, we made a couple of moves this year: One, we instituted early voting. We’ve already seen that there’s been an increase in turn out, so that’s exciting. We’ve also dropped some of the barriers for people to get to the ballot box. We’ve made some changes to the law that simplify how the ballot looks. We’ve unified the hours that people can go to the polls throughout the state. And, we’re going to continue our work as we go forward. As the Chair of the Elections Committee, I view my role very much through a civil rights prism. And, I’d like to see us break down any barriers—particularly for communities of color—to participate in the democratic process.     

(left to right) Myrie with Pre-Law Institute Director Charles Robert Davidson, Ph.D.
(left to right) Myrie with Pre-Law Institute Director Charles Robert Davidson, Ph.D. 

What would you like to say specifically to John Jay students about voting?
You have the most powerful voice in our democracy. For a long time the voter population skewed older and it skewed whiter. That trend is actually reversing and the power is in the hands of our young people, and in our people of color. We have no choice but to engage in this democracy, so that we can see it start returning what we’re putting in.

John Jay Students Respond to Myrie’s Talk

Venecia Castro, ’20
Major: Human Services and Community Justice
What resonated most to me was that Senator Myrie never lost his reason throughout his journey. This is inspirational to all future leaders that want to make a difference in their communities and advocate for those individuals who fear speaking up due to lack of knowledge, resources and/or network. As long as one has a vision—and they’re willing to stand firm by it no matter the obstacles—anything is possible.

Denise Melendez, ’21
Major: Human Services
Attending the “Rock the Vote" event was an amazing experience for me. Not only was I able to personally meet New York State Senator Zellnor Y. Myrie, but I was also given the opportunity to hear his plans to positively change the future of Brooklyn, New York in regards to NYCHA [New York City Housing Authority], prison minimum wage, and the reentry process for criminal justice-involved individuals.