Making Democracy Work: Casting your ballot is critical this year
By Lisa Scott
If you’re a news consumer you’ve heard a lot about how important these midterm elections are. Voter turnout is usually greatest in a presidential election year (66.8% in 2020 59.2% in 2016) but falls off at midterms (49% in 2018 and 36% in 2014). It shouldn’t, since the entire House of Representatives and 1/3 of the Senate is on the ballot along with many state governors and state legislatures.
Also this is the first election after many states reapportioned their districts, which has been contentious due to extreme gerrymandering (resulting in court cases, re-drawn lines, and in New York State a huge amount of confusion for voters who don’t know which congressional and state districts they now reside in). Whether you’re an occasional voter or a consistent one, what matters is that YOU VOTE. Be prepared: study the ballot and make a plan. Keep in mind the following:
• If you didn’t register to vote by Oct. 14, you cannot vote in this election.
• If you didn’t request an absentee ballot by Oct. 24, the only way you can get one now is to physically appear at the Board of Elections on or before Nov. 7 (and fill it in while you are there).
• If you’ve requested an absentee ballot, you can track it online at https://voterlookup.elections.ny.gov/
• Early voting is currently underway (from Oct. 29 through Nov. 6). You can vote early at any of the 27 early voting sites in Suffolk County. Hours do vary, so check before you go at https://my.lwv.org/new-york/suffolk-county.
The Suffolk County Board of Elections is still down as a result of the county’s IT department restoring systems after September’s hacking incident, but their phones are staffed. However you must vote at your assigned polling place on election day Nov. 8 — find it at https://voterlookup.elections.ny.gov/
Suffolk County Board of Elections trained poll workers staff the voting sites. Each position has a 2 workers — one a Republican and one a Democrat. An individual cannot unilaterally make a decision without the approval of the other party’s worker which provides balanced oversight. If you have any issue at the polls you can call the Election Protection hotline at (866) 390-2992, or the Suffolk County Board of Elections at 631-852-4500.
To find out what races and candidates are on YOUR ballot, visit the League of Women Voters’ www.Vote411.org. If you’re not familiar with the candidates you can refer to their answers to questions (which are unedited).
When you’re at the polls, “flip” your ballot to see what propositions you are being asked to vote on. All NYS voters can vote yes or no on the “Clean Water, Clean Air, and Green Jobs Environmental Bond Act of 2022” proposition. (Bonds would be issued to provide moneys to make environmental improvements; these are not taxes.) The League of Women Voters supports this proposition.
There is also a Suffolk County proposition on all ballots which updates the language in the County Charter with regard to terms limits for County Executive, County Legislator and County Comptroller. Because of vague language in the original Charter Law, voting yes to this proposition would make the language clearer; that the limit of years of service for those offices is 12 years, regardless of whether 12 years are served consecutively on non-consecutively. Voting no does NOT eliminate term limits for these offices. A no vote simply means that the original Charter Law language remains unchanged.
We live in challenging times and apathy on election day is not an option for any of us. And after you’ve voted, remain engaged: stay informed and active and communicate with your elected officials.
Lisa Scott is president of the League of Women Voters of Suffolk County, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that encourages the informed and active participation of citizens in government and influences public policy through education and advocacy. For more information, visit https://my.lwv.org/new-york/suffolk-county or call 631-862-6860.