Everyone’s focused on November 2016, but what about next month? by Nicolette Nanton
November 3, the next election, but hardly anyone is paying attention. Everyone is focused on the presidential election—a year from now. So several candidates running for District Leader in Harlem remain completely unknown to CCNY students.
The 2016 race for president — with its debates, controversies, Saturday Night Live skits and Donald Trump — has completely taken over the political scene. However, this overshadowing may prove problematic to local elections because of low voter participation among students eligible to vote.
According to the analysis of data released by the U.S. Census in 2014, the Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement determined “19.9 percent of 18- to 29-years old cast ballots in the 2014 elections. This was the lowest rate of youth turnout recorded in the Current Population Supplement (CPS) in the past forty years.”
Even though City College boasts its strong presence in Harlem, students on campus know very little about local elections within the community they frequent during the week. Every two years, Harlem holds elections for district leader, an unpaid volunteer elected as an official to serve as a representative of a district for a political party. Harlem has two district leaders, a male and female, per district to have equal representation within the political party.
Although this position does not have as much power as more well-known public offices, someone in this position can use this role as a tool to focus on community issues, be the voice of the community in political party meetings, as well as help elect judges for New York’s Civil, Supreme, and Surrogate Courts. As it stands in the current election, there are two women running for the Female District Leader position in Harlem: Gina Smith and Nylssa Whitaker. Two men are running for District Leader (Part B): Johnny C. Rivera and Harry Rodriguez and two more for (Part C): Kelmy Rodriguez and John Ruiz.
It’s important for students to be involved in electoral politics at all levels. “Young voters are an enormous contingent that just by showing up to the polls have an enormous sway that politicians notice. Now more than ever students must take a stand, as access to voting is being taken away at a mind boggling pace,” said Ryan Carson, New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG) Outreach Coordinator at City College.
To vote in both local elections and presidential elections, students have to register to vote. To register, students must be at least 18 by December 31st and a citizen of the United States. Registration forms are found online at websites such as www.eac.gov, www.canivote.org, or www.rockthevote.org.
Students at CCNY can register to vote at the NYPIRG office in room 1/120 in the NAC. If not, students may register at a local board of elections or any state agency participating in the National Voter Registration Act. For added convenience, students can also call the 1-800-FOR-VOTE hotline as well as enter your name on the www.elections.ny.gov mailing list to request a voter registration form. After registration is complete and it is time to cast the ballot, students must bring proof of ID: a valid state id, driver’s license, last four digits of your social security number, utility bill, bank statement, or any other government issued form of identification.