Monday, November 3, 2008

Leave No Voter Behind Tomorrow

So much controversy over voting, and yet it is all so simple. Make everyone you know cast a vote tomorrow.

NYC BOE - Board of Elections

Last week, the New York City Board of Elections asked all of us to be patient during tomorrow's elections. They expect to be overwhelmed.

Also last week, the Mayor was extremely critical of the planning work done by the Board of Elections. He even insisted that the Mayor's office has been attempting (without success) to prompt the Board of Elections to address many of the problems that are anticipated. Moreover, the Mayor stated that the Board of Elections was seeking emergency funding for tomorrow's elections but would not detail for the Mayor what the funding would be used for. One cannot be sure whether the Mayor is truly outraged at the incompetence of the Board of Elections or if he just wants to set the tone for the post-election recriminations. If there is chaos in NYC at the polls tomorrow, the Mayor wants all of us to believe that he is a victim of the Board of Elections rather than the person presiding over and responsible for the chaos. He is working to ensure than no blame lands on him. At Manhattan Viewpoint, we are more focused on how we can make tomorrow as successful as possible than on who should get the blame if we fail.

After tomorrow's election, our city needs to establish a plan for the future that addresses whatever challenges are highlighted by tomorrow's events. Our Mayor will be responsible for demonstrating leadership in this area in advance of his re-election attempt in 2009, and he will not have the option of allowing the problems to persist while blaming those problems on others.

Speaking of the Mayor's 2009 re-election bid, we find it ironic that the Mayor claims to be focused on ensuring that votes are cast in large numbers and without chaos tomorrow. Implicitly, he is signalling that voting is very important. Yet, he was very comfortable proposing that the votes of the people of New York City with regard to term limits (votes occurring in 1993 and 1996) be overturned by a vote of the City Council. He will sign the bill overturning term limits and nullifying two referenda today, on the eve of an election in which we all expect the choices of the voters to be respected. In essence, the Mayor has demonstrated that he believes that voting is very important unless you vote for policies of which the Mayor does not approve. We'll have to discuss this irony in greater detail in 2009.

The Rest of the Ballot

Far too often in Presidential election years, the Presidential election overshadows the rest of the ballot. In a county like Manhattan in a state like New York, one can easily be persuaded that the winner-take-all electoral college system used to choose the President of the United States renders our votes meaningless. Some may argue that, given the New York State has no chance of selecting John McCain, the Obama margin of victory is meaningless. Indeed, the Obama campaign chose not to invest any meaningful resources in New York State, and John McCain chose the same approach for the same reason - Senator Obama will win New York State tomorrow.

However, every seat in the state senate is up for election. Every seat in the state assembly is up for election, and every seat in the US House of Representatives is up for election. Whether or not our votes for President have any real impact, we are actually more affected by the activities of officials who represent fewer constituents and who are focused on the areas where we live and work.

In 2009, we will be electing all of the top city officials and determining who holds every seat in the City Council. We can encourage everyone we know in NYC to treat 2008 as a dry run. We need heavy voter turn out (and the patience requested by the Board of Elections) in 2009.

The following year, we will be looking to re-elect David Paterson as the Governor of the State of New York and to send Chuck Schumer back to the US Senate for another six years (at least). We can familiarize ourselves with victory by participating fully in 2008.

The Opposing Point of View

Now, as we gear up for tomorrow, there are voices in the media trying to encourage us not to vote unless we consider ourselves experts on the issues and personalities at the heart of the decisions we'll make in the voting booth.

The Manhattan Viewpoint View

It has long been a cliché to many, but it is a truth that one cannot ignore. For many of us, our ancestors died to give us the right to vote. To squander that vote or to relinquish it because of inconvenience would be obscene, whether we have faith that our individual votes will shape the outcomes of elections or not. Because the 15th Amendment (1870) and the Voting Rights Act (1965) were victories secured by the blood of our ancestors, every election day is a sacred day, and we show our respect for those who made our votes possible by going to the polls and by encouraging everyone we know to join us in that sacred activity - tomorrow and every election day of any sort.

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