An Interns View: Local Elections Matter, but No One Votes
My name is Dan and I’m doing an internship with the Long Island Progressive Coalition. I currently attend classes at LIU Post as a Political Science major. Having an educational background on politics and political history, I figured that working with an organization dedicated to progressive, grass-roots agendas would be a great learning experience, both for myself and my studies.
From my studies I have learned some very interesting facts about politics in general. Perhaps the most important thing I have come to realize is the importance of local governance, local elections, and the politics that surround them.
Recently, Thomas Suozzi won the Democratic Primary and is set to run against Edward Mangano for the seat of Nassau County Executive. The position of County Executive is an important responsibility that includes not-insignificant tasks like formulating county policy and creating the county budget. This Primary, like other local elections, can have a greater impact on people’s lives than many of the Federal elections. And yet, only 5% of registered Democrats in Nassau County actually turned out to vote. In essence, Suozzi represents a majority of 5% of Democrats.
My studies have also shown me that this is not even that unusual at all!
Voter turnout rates seem to have a positive relationship with the height of the elections: the higher the office being contested, the more people turn out to the polling booths. Our country’s voter pyramid is upside-down; the Presidential elections will get around 50-60% of voters and local elections will get maybe 15-20% of voters. The fact that this trend has largely been rock-solid is harrowing to say the least.
The thing is that, even knowing how important these elections are, I actually rarely vote in local elections. Most of the advertising is lost on me as I don’t really watch regular TV anymore (thank you Netflix). The billboards and lawn signs telling me to support this candidate or that candidate fall on deaf ears: if I cared about these guys I wouldn’t need a sign to tell me to vote for them, and if I didn’t care, how would a sign with some guy’s name in colored writing convince me otherwise? And so these elections just pass me by like cars on the road, seemingly unworthy of even a passing glance.
If I could I’d go back and kick myself for my apathy, then proceed to vote in my own stead. Every vote counts, as all the Presidential recount debacles should illustrate. Especially for the Primaries: wouldn’t I want my potential County Executive to be someone I personally support, rather than just some relatively nameless upwardly-mobile politician who may not even care about my interests?
Learning these truths about politics has only redoubled my efforts in working for the LIPC. Working for a progressive, grass-roots organization will put me in unique positions not too many people get to witness: interacting with Democrats across the Island, organizing meetings with like-minded organizations, collating relevant data about targeted communities. By the end of my internship, I intend to have a far more nuanced view of these kinds of organizations and the work they struggle for. And I think all of us, as ordinary Americans, can benefit from the continued efforts of organizations like the LIPC to better our lives against increasingly overwhelming odds.