Did you get out and vote last week?
This year, we weren’t voting for a representative in Washington, like the president, a senator or members of congress. This election was all about our local and county representatives. Unfortunately, choosing the receiver of taxes doesn’t have the pizzazz or name recognition of electing a president. Yet they have more impact on our day-to-day lives (and finances) than anything going on in Washington.
Whether you participated or not, we elected a town supervisor, a district attorney, a few county and district judges, a bunch of town council members and county legislators. Every one of these people, some of whom might be your friends or neighbors, have more of an effect on your quality of life than anything going on inside that big white house at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
I took advantage of New York’s new early voting period this year at the town hall in Massapequa, and I’ve got to say it was very well organized and efficient. Although we are still relying on paper ballots where you fill in the little circles, iPads have replaced those giant address books at check-in.
For the first time in the state’s history, registered voters could cast their ballots in person before the traditional first Tuesday in November. The early voting spanned nine consecutive days, including two weekends. A series of locations were set up in town halls, libraries and recreation centers to accommodate early voters.
New York became the 38th state to allow early voting, and in the first weekend alone, more than 50,000 people voted, 12,000 of them in New York City alone. More than 5,000 Nassau County voters took advantage on that first weekend, and officials at the location I voted at said there was a steady stream of voters all week leading up to the final weekend.
Providing multiple locations on multiple days goes a long way to helping overcome one of the most popular excuses people use for not voting, “It’s not convenient to vote on a Tuesday.” But it still doesn’t solve the other reason, “Why bother? My vote doesn’t count anyway.”
Of course, your vote counts. Other than electing a president, where the winner is declared based on the Electoral College and not the popular vote, all other elections are based on a direct vote. One vote, either way, affirms the winner.
The right to vote is one of the most fundamental principles of our republic. Your vote sends a message to politicians about what is important to you. Your voice is heard loud and clear when you support one candidate over the other.
Casting your vote is a great equalizer, especially when it comes to local politicians. When making decisions on your behalf, they listen to your vote. Everyone gets just one vote, from the richest to the most unfortunate person in the country. Without voting, you are allowing other people to make decisions for you.
Local publications like Long Island Weekly provide a voter guide to help you make an informed decision. Many voters like to know where the different candidates stand on issues that are important to them, but it’s not a requirement to cast a vote. Some people choose to vote across party lines, associating those platforms and values with their own. Others may cast a vote for one candidate over the other simply because they like (or don’t like) their name.
Whatever the reason, remember that your vote is essential. Since 2016, three local and state elections across the country have been decided by a single vote, and another, after 23,000 votes were counted, ended in a tie. You think there are people in those states that wish they had voted?
Remember, the most important reason of all to get out and vote is quite simple. If you don’t vote, you don’t get to complain.