The value of voting

Let’s keep this short and sweet. It’s the beginning of November. Elections are only days away.

It’s our duty as American citizens to get to the polls and elect those we believe are best suited to govern. Whether we are electing local leaders or the next president, the responsibility is ours to bear. 

Running for office in an oft-times thankless world isn’t easy. Those who do should be lauded, but more importantly, they should be given the respect of our vote. 

Voting wasn’t always so simple. Women and minorities, especially, were long kept from the polls. It’s only been 100 years since women earned the right to vote in New York state, back on Nov. 6, 1917. In 2020, the U.S. will celebrate the 19th Amendment’s 100th anniversary. Before that, women had no vote, no voice.

Yet women — and minorities — were always expected to adhere to the rule of the land. Today, we all must follow the rules, but at least we’re given the opportunity to chose those creating our laws — put in office to represent our wants and needs.

Voting amplifies our collective voice. It’s how we bring attention to our concerns, influence our laws and affect change. We may not think about casting our ballot often, but the ramifications of doing so nonetheless impact us and the world we live in daily.

There are understandably concerns: Does our vote count? After all, look at the results of the 2016 presidential election. Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by roughly 3 million. Yet Trump nabbed the election thanks to our antiquated electoral college system — devastating for those who worked so hard to make sure voters got to the polls, only to see the popular vote ignored.

The takeaway for many was that voting is of no consequence. But that’s not true, especially in local elections. Town and village elections are where our votes count most. There is a direct line from the ballot box to municipal government.

This year in the Harlem Valley we have town supervisors, town councilmen, town justices,  assessors, village trustees, county legislators and supreme court justices up for election, among others. They will wind up crafting laws and creating budgets that directly affect us. 

Want to sit out of the political process? Well, there’s a price. It’s this: Apathy begets poor representation, and poor representation begets bad government. Additionally, those who sit out of the political process often have no understanding of what our politicians are doing for us, or to us.

Please, vote, regardless of whether you love the candidates. Vote, regardless of whether it takes time from your busy lives. Vote, regardless of whether you think it will make a difference. It will. 

Be an active citizen. It takes a little work, but it’s worth it. After all, Americans fought hard to live in a free democracy — the least we can do is make it to the polls on Nov. 7.