As November 4, the date of midterm elections, approaches, NYPIRG (New York Public Interest Research Group) CCNY chapter embarked on an active voter mobilization campaign. During the previous few weeks NYPIRG members ventured out to the campus class rooms and public spaces seeking those who have not yet registered to vote. October 10 was the deadline for voter registration, and by that date CCNY NYPIRG members together with the help from United Student Government have registered almost 700 voters. The result is amazing, isn’t it?
Yes, the result is great, in fact. Yet, there are still many unregistered eligible voters not only at CCNY campus but in New York City, New York State and the whole country in general. During the 2010 midterm elections, for example, only 34.4% of people from 18 to 20 years of age registered to vote. Similarly, only 47.2% of people aged between 21 and 24 were registered. The voting statistic is a bit gloomier. During the same year, only 16.4% of those who were 18 to 20 years old and eligible reported voting. The voting data for the age group from 21 to 24 was 22%.
Younger generation is the least active group in voting. Yet, people in their 30s and 40s do not turn out to be the most actively voting age group either. In fact, those who are 65 years and older occupy the first place here. In 2010, 72.5% of this age group was registered to vote, and 58.9% voted. “But why should I care about this statistics?” one may ask. “Why should I care about voting?” may another person wonder.
The answer is simple – one should care about this data and voting because freedom of expressing one’s political opinion via voting is the privilege that is guaranteed to every US citizen by the Constitution. As a person who was born and lived a significant part of life in a country under a dictatorial regime, I call this freedom a privilege. Unfortunately, the numbers provided above prove that this freedom is taken for granted. The numbers of those who actually vote are far away from 100%. Yes, I do realize that people might have different reasons that prevent them from voting. Yet, hearing the words “I don’t want to vote” or “I don’t want to register” when I was registering CCNY students to vote was really frustrating to me.
I grew up in Belarus, the country where president Aleksandr Luakashenko has been in power since 1994. I will not go into all the details about his repressive regime. I will note, however, that voting fraud is a very common practice there. A ballot cast in favor of one candidate often turns into the one cast in favor of Lukashenko and his supporters in Parliament. Voting rate in Belarus was 65.2% during the 2012 Parliamentary elections as opposed to the 45.5% in the 2010 U.S. midterm elections. One would assume that Belarusian citizens would become desperate and give up on voting. Nevertheless, they still come to the polls, knowing and, maybe not knowing, that their vote may be forged.
Even though the voting situation in the U.S. is different from the one in Belarus, there are a number of ways to manipulate voters via gerrymandering, for example, (a deliberate redistricting in favor of a particular party, racial, economic or other group) or various campaign tactics. As a matter of fact, redistricting question is going to be on the New York ballot during the upcoming midterm elections.
Nevertheless, with all the faults U.S. election system has, the country’s citizens may be confident that their ballot will remain uncorrupt and transmit their message to the politicians. “Then why not vote?” my question is. If one knows that his/her vote counts, why not vote? People in this country are blessed with many freedoms and privileges that citizens of other countries, including Belarus, do not have. Freedom to vote is one of them. Use this privilege wisely and remember that inactive citizens are an easy target for manipulation. Being a politically active citizen means showing your officials that you care about their actions and you care about your life in this country.
NYPIRG works on the voter mobilization all year round. If you are interested in joining or would like to find out more information about the organization feel free to stop by its office located in NAC 1/120.
Photo credit: http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-l2k8ZpKIdGw/UJG7m2eU3gI/AAAAAAAAAc8/BhwOKy1gCGQ/s1600/vote.jpg
` U.S. Census Bureau, “Statistical Abstract of the United States: 2012. Voting-Age Population—Reported Registration and Voting by Selected Characteristics: 1996 to 2010”, U.S. Census Bureau, 2012, http://www.census.gov/compendia/statab/2012/tables/12s0399.pdf.
 IDEA, “Voter Turnout Data for Belarus”, International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, 2014, http://www.idea.int/vt/countryview.cfm?CountryCode=BY.
 U.S. Census Bureau, “Voting and Registration”, U.S. Census Bureau, 2012, http://thedataweb.rm.census.gov/TheDataWeb_HotReport2/voting/voting.hrml?GESTFIPS=ALL&INSTANCE=Nov+2010.