I’m always shocked at how few voters show up at the polls on Election Day in odd years. In today’s elections here in New York, it’s doubtful whether 30% of the registered voters will turnout. In my county, we’ll be electing county legislators and elected officials for cities, towns and villages. We’re electing the representatives who are closest to the people. They will decide important matters like annual budgets, tax increases, zoning, economic development and services like road repairs, garbage pickup and leaf removal. These local officials regularly make real decisions that affect our everyday lives, but sadly, a large majority of voters just don’t seem to care. And on top of the low voting rate, there will be many voters today that have not studied the candidates and are not informed about the issues they are debating, so they will just vote the party line. There are places in my county where only one party has won every election for every position for decades (usually the Democrats). If we don’t all play an active and informed role in picking our leaders, we will have governments that are less responsive to our needs and hopes for what our communities can and should be.
We started this blog with the hope of increasing voter information through nonpartisan posts about the issues. While we hoped to post more regularly, we’re pleased about our “hits” and more than 4,000 Twitter followers (Link: https://twitter.com/FreeVoterBlog). We recognize that our little blog cannot fix the voting problems discussed above, but we’re going to keep trying.
Most importantly, please vote today, and beginning tomorrow, try to become more informed about the issues being debated in our local, county, state and federal governments. Our communities will be better served by a genuine participatory democracy.
(Jim serves as a Westchester County Legislator)
During my lifetime, for the even years when we are not voting for president but voting for such important officials like Governor, Attorney General, Comptroller, US Senate, Congress, State Senate and State Assembly, New York State’s voter turnout of registered voters has been cut in half. Yes, when I was a little 3-year-old back in 1966, the voter turnout for those that chose a Governor in an exciting four-way race between Nelson Rockefeller (Republican), Frank O’Connor (Democrat), Paul Adams (Conservative) and Franklin Deleno Roosevelt Jr. (Liberal) was over 60%. Our recent race between Andrew Cuomo (Democrat), Rob Astorino (Republican) and Howie Hawkins (Green) had the lowest turnout election watchers can remember – about 31% of registered voters. See chart above for voter turnout in Governor election years since 1966. (Note: it’s possible turnout from 1966 to 1990 was a bit higher as it was difficult to track down the exact data, but I believe my percents are good estimates).
It’s shocking that so many New Yorkers are failing to respect their civic duty to let their voices be heard on Election Day. We can all speculate about the reasons for this massive drop in voting: negative campaigns, people turned off by modern day politics or working too hard/no time to vote, so many uncontested races, or New York’s embarrassing political corruption. But frankly, as a very busy person who always finds time to study the candidates and make it to the polls, there is just no excuse for failing to vote. Less than one-third of New York’s registered voters just picked our federal and state elected representatives. As a comparison, North Carolina, which did have massive amounts of money spent on one of the featured US Senate races, had a 44% turnout. I worked on Governor George Pataki’s exciting victory in 1994 and that campaign had a much more respectable turnout of 53%. Election Day 2014 was not a victory for democracy in New York State.