Written by Michael A. Miller Friday, 30 October 2009 00:00
County, town, city and judicial elections are this Tuesday. I have some very definite opinions about the political campaigns that as you read this are maybe hitting you with last-minute automated calls and postcards that all look alike. Our local political campaigns may spend more and more but they have been saying less and less and engage fewer and fewer voters at a time when we need to build a public vision like never before. Perhaps you’ve picked up on that sentiment from little hints I’ve dropped here and there in previous essays.
It’s the last issue before Election Day, and fair is fair and I’m putting it all aside for another time. By then, perhaps I will have found some inner peace and will write about the puppies and clouds and cheesecake I always think will be the subject, until something gets me going. And this week, I really got going.
The neighborhood-based field operations that were once the backbone of our political parties have been allowed, in some cases even encouraged, to utterly disintegrate in many parts of the county. This newspaper will be the closest thing to a meaningful “Get Out the Vote” contact that thousands of readers are likely to receive. Anton Community Newspapers readers are far more likely to vote than the average eligible adult. So my message is to you and also to the friends, family or co-workers you may run into between now and Tuesday.
I think you should vote this Tuesday, if you haven’t voted already. That’s all.
I could implore you to vote because we could have ties or near ties and Florida and all that. Actually, ties do happen; it’s happened in Nassau County and it happened last year in an upstate county. I could appeal to your sense of patriotism and responsibility at a time when millions of Americans are yearning to help make things work again. Instead, I’m going to appeal to your practical nature. Not voting makes things harder for you, for your family and for all of us.
If you feel you have to, you can go to the polling place or mail in the absentee ballot and just not vote for anyone. It gets counted as “Blank, Void or Missing” and people like me keep count of the “drop off” in votes cast between offices on the ballot.
Many people of good faith believe that not showing up to vote sends our leaders a message of disgust or of disapproval. They could not possibly be more wrong. The message elected officials and a lot of people around them hear when we have very low voter participation is: Good job. After all, if they were really upset, they’d at least vote. Your absence gets tallied as a vote for Business As Usual. How’s that working out for you?
If you have children, you have an added responsibility. Studies have shown that seeing parents vote is the single greatest factor in determining future participation. Even if you are a burnout slacker like me, even if you couldn’t care less which side, the red-and-white one or the blue-and-white one, gets to call itself the majority of whichever-board-who-can-keep-this-straight, don’t let your kids see that. Give them a fighting chance, in some brighter future, one in which we have flying cars and real property tax reform, to be participants. Bring the kids to the polling place and let them watch you sign in and stand at the machine, even if you’re just humming to yourself. If you’ve already voted by paper, as more and more of us do, try to drive past a polling place somewhere and make the kids look up from their handheld for a second and view the crazy scene. People waiting to vote. Mommy and Daddy do that. Someday, you can do it, too.
I think you should vote on Tuesday.
Michael Miller is a freelance writer, designer and strategic consultant who has worked in state and local government. He lives in New Hyde Park.