Some New Yorkers who have never been registered as Democrats are suddenly joining the party. They have not undergone a political transformation. They say they are simply doing it because they want their vote to count in the 2013 political contests in New York City. NY1's Grace Rauh filed the following report.
James Panero is a lifelong Republican. He even writes for a conservative magazine. But he is leaving his party to become a Democrat.
"My feeling is that if you're conservative, if you're a moderate, if you're any kind of voter in this city, you need to register now as a Democrat to vote in the 2013 primaries," he said.
New Yorkers registered to vote can cast a ballot in the city's general election next year but only voters registered with a party can vote in party primaries.
Some New Yorkers feel that in order for their vote to really count locally, they need to participate in the Democratic primary. Many races, including the fight for City Hall, may be effectively decided before the general election.
"I bit the bullet," Panero said. "I did it. I really recommend that everyone do it."
Anyone who wants to switch parties to vote in next year's primary needs to do so by Friday. That fast-approaching deadline prompted City Council candidate Ken Biberaj to talk to voters on the Upper West Side about becoming registered Democrats.
"Something has to be done," Biberaj said. "This is incredibly unfair. Way too many people are going to get left out of the process."
Other states are much more flexible than New York when it comes to changing party affiliation. In New Jersey, for example, first-time primary voters can register with a new party on primary day, right before they vote.
"Elections should be structured to encourage as many voters to participate as possible," said Dick Dadey of Citizens Union. "By requiring you to declare your party affiliation a year from the election you want to participate in, you may be disenfranchising people from voting in the most consequential election in the city."
A spokesman for the state Board of Elections said the registration deadline has been in effect for at least 60 years. He said it is designed to keep voters from switching parties at the last minute to attempt to throw an election in their true party's favor.