Bronx County 18-year-olds have state’s lowest voter registration rate: report

Amaurys Grullon of Bronx Native collaborated with NYC Votes to engage Bronxites through merch, social media and events.
Amaurys Grullon of Bronx Native collaborated with NYC Votes to engage Bronxites through merch, social media and events.
Photo courtesy Bronx Native

New data shows that rates of voter registration among Bronx 18-year-olds are the lowest in the state — but local advocates, plus a few new state laws, aim to turn that around.

New York City as a whole lags behind the rest of the state in voter registration for 18-year-olds, and Bronx County ranks dead last at 18.6%, according to research published by The Civics Center, an Los Angeles-based nonprofit working to improve youth voter registration. The state has work to do overall, with 150,000 18-year-olds remaining unregistered in New York — just a 40% registration rate for that age group.

By contrast, New Yorkers over age 45 are registered at a rate of 77%, according to The Civics Center. 

Recent changes to state law have aimed to make voter registration more accessible to young people. A law passed in 2020 allowed 16- and 17-year-olds to preregister to vote (although they cannot cast a ballot until they turn 18), and a new law took effect on July 1 requiring all local boards of education, school boards, charter schools and private schools to promote voter registration. Additionally, online voter registration is available for New York City residents without a driver’s license or permit, removing more potential barriers.

While these changes could bring significant improvements, there has been “almost no tradition, culture and practice” of making sure teens are registered to vote before leaving high school, said Laura Brill, founder and CEO of The Civics Center, in an interview with the Bronx Times.

Many of the youngest residents are not registered and therefore not included among “likely voters” — and political candidates often don’t know how to engage with them — leading to a vicious cycle of teens feeling disenfranchised and not making voter registration a priority, said Brill. 

New collaboration

In the Bronx, a new collaboration between NYC Votes and one of the borough’s most well-known brands is aimed at turning more young people — and Bronxites of all ages — into regular voters. 

Amaurys Grullon, founder of the Bronx Native clothing shop, launched a merch and social media campaign with NYC Votes, an initiative of the NYC Campaign Finance Board, just ahead of the June 25 primary elections. 

Grullon told the Bronx Times that the partnership was somewhat unexpected — but since Bronx Native has “always been a mission-forward brand, a community brand,” it only made sense to use his platform to help get out the vote, he said. 

Grullon designed two different hats and shirts and held an event three days before the primaries to give away merchandise and chopped cheese sandwiches to people completing voter registration, pledging to vote and signing up for more information. 

An estimated 300 people participated, using up almost all the merch, Grullon said. He also created Instagram posts “centered on community” that incorporated local influencers and entrepreneurs encouraging people to vote. 

Young Bronxites may not have many role models for voting habits, as turnout in the Bronx typically lags behind the rest of the city. A lot of young people assume politics isn’t for them, and the feeling of “that’s not my realm” is common among people of all ages, according to Grullon. But candidates and elected officials need to make special efforts to reach teens, he said. 

Social media can make a big difference in reaching young people, and politicians should hold events that are “curated towards youth,” such as conferences and open discussions, said Grullon.

As election season continues, Grullon said he is planning more events with NYC Votes ahead of the November general election — and into 2025, when New York City will hold elections for mayor, City Council and other important local offices. 

“This was only the beginning,” Grullon said. 

The Civics Center provides information for young voters and online training sessions for youth-led voter registration events at schools. Students and staff who are interested can visit for more information.

Reach Emily Swanson at or (646) 717-0015. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes