Donald Trump’s campaign has faced gut-wrenching mishaps and body blows, as it wades through the arcane primary process, but Monday morning’s headline may be the most deflating of all. The candidate may become the first in the modern era, frontrunner or otherwise, to fail to garner a plurality of the vote within his own household.
It turns out only one of Trump’s three adult children, Donald Jr., remembered to register to vote in the New York Republican primary on April 19. Eric and Ivanka, who have helped their father manage his campaign, were apparently "unaware of the rules," and failed to register by New York’s primary election deadline October 2015.
Nonetheless, the failure of two so intimately involved in the candidate’s campaign to register to vote by the October 2015 deadline turns a spotlight on perhaps an even more mystifying story – why in the world do New Yorkers have to update their voter registration six months prior to the primary.
In fact, even in conservative states along the South, well-known for voter suppression, the earliest registration deadline prior to a primary election is just 35 days prior. New York, a bastion of liberal populism and inclusion, however, seems to hold the crown for the worst state in the country for people to vote, disenfranchising the majority of the electorate who failed to register in time.
The early registration has been defended by some as a way to ensure that only genuine members of a political party – Democrat or Republican – are registered. It makes sense in the context of municipal and state elections that, already having a lower voter turnout, are susceptible to influence from non-party members trying to advance their opponent’s worst candidate.
Nonetheless, out of the 11.7 million registered voters in the state of New York, a whopping 2,252,424 are registered as unaffiliated or Independent, meaning they are not allowed to participate in either presidential primary – 20% of America’s most populated state after California, and Texas (tied with Florida) are not allowed to choose who they get to vote for in November.
Trump and his family’s ignorance of the electoral process may garner a few giggles from political insiders and consultants, but their failings could be interpreted more accurately as the failure of America’s broken democracy, where a candidate who wins a state ends up with fewer delegates than the loser, and where over 20% of those who took the time to register to vote are left with no representation at all.