Mark your calendar: May 21 is election day! And according to New York State law, so is the second Tuesday in July for most Suffolk County fire departments. The third Tuesday in March is also election day for many village trustees and propositions. Election day for state and local primaries, well that’s June 25 this year. When do you vote on library budget? Each local library has a different day for its election. So, why then do we call the first Tuesday in November election day as if there’s only one day when citizens vote?
Election days can be tough to track. It’s like the nutty old Abbott and Costello skit “Who’s on first, what’s on second, and I don’t know is on third.” Yet elections are no laughing matter.
Collectively, all of these elections amount to increased spending, which overtime adds up. It’s not easy getting it straight — not only these dates, but also all the spending.
In recent years, large and seemingly extravagant multi-million-dollar public projects have been both approved and declined by popular vote with lower voter turnout throughout our circulation area. The $14.9 million bond for the new Setauket Firehouse was approved on its third try with just 580 people voting out of a population of several thousand in the fire district. Last year, a bond presented by the Mount Sinai School District was voted down with a 664-428 tally against the project. Mount Sinai has a population of over 12,000.
If one or two days each year were designated election day, it would be easier to hold elected officials accountable by enabling taxpayers to see a broad overview of taxation on one ballot.
At TBR News Media, we would support consolidating elections into one or two universal election days each year. Make it a national holiday, so people are more keenly aware of their obligation. Maybe turn Columbus Day, a federal holiday, into election day? With one or two annual election days, citizens could more easily track spending and stay abreast of community affairs.
But until this happens, as we said, mark your calendars. All elections are important: They determine where our money will go and how much of it.
On May 21, Long Islanders will vote on board of education members and school district budgets, which account for a significant majority of our local tax bills. It’s a crucial vote that typically gains support from parents with children in school, while retirees or people with more limited income, who may have different priorities, make a point to show up at the polls to say no.
That’s the system we have now, so be sure to exercise your right to vote May 21.