New Yorkers do many things well, but voting isn’t one of them. Especially if there’s no close marquee election to rile us up.
Four years ago, when we last chose a governor and all of the city’s members of Congress, less than 40 percent of eligible voters statewide bothered to go to the polls. New York was dead last for gubernatorial turnout.
The same economic malaise that affected us then colors this election. The mood is glum, expectations and dreams are pinched. Mix in the bitter partisanship and stagnation of Washington and it’s easy to see why voters feel casting a ballot won’t matter.
But that’s a mistake.
Tuesday, the city will help decide who goes to the House of Representatives and whether to keep an incumbent governor, attorney general and state comptroller. And we’ll also help decide whether Democrats or Republicans run the State Senate.
There are two important ballot issues as well: One would authorize up to $2 billion in state borrowing to pay for school technology and construction. Another would put our method for drawing electoral maps into the state constitution. Both have major long-term impacts.
And all of these issues are worth weighing in on.
We could try to convince you by revealing our David Letterman list of why you should vote. No. 4: It’s a great way to spend time with your neighbors.
We could get solemn and remind you that your forefathers died — literally died — to give you this right.
We could try to shame you with images from foreign countries of people waiting in endless lines at polling places to exercise their newly granted right.
But the most cogent argument is that voting matters.
Change in New York State since 2010
Look what’s changed since New York last elected a governor. The minimum wage was increased, income taxes for the middle class were cut and estate taxes were reduced for the wealthy. We have tougher gun laws. We have same-sex marriage.
Love those developments or hate them, they happened because of the people we chose to go to Albany.
Look what’s happened in Washington — nothing. Congress is paralyzed by partisanship. The brutal battle for control of the Senate is being waged not over issues, but on who can best get core voters to the ballot box. We’ll concede that disillusionment is a national phenomenon, the sinking feeling that government doesn’t work.
But frustration with Washington is no reason for New Yorkers to stay home. Pick someone you think can work with the other side, someone who’s a leader for an issue you care about. No? Well, you should at least be able to find someone or something to vote against.
Should it be more convenient to vote in New York? Yes. Early voting would help those who need assistance getting to the polls, or have work and child care conflicts.
Still, voting doesn’t take long. It’s not terribly complicated. If you need a ride, let someone know. Take the kids and explain how this act fulfills a basic civil right, the cornerstone of our democracy.
Or consider it a license. If you don’t take part in the process, you have no right to complain about the result.
Don’t let someone else make the decision for you.