Your Vote Counts

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Staff Writer
Andrew Martin Kolstee

Seriously, It Really Does Count.

Your vote counts. Seriously. Yes, that sounds cliché, but upon further examination of voter turnout in recent elections, most people don’t realize that there is a large group of people that can sway any election, any way they want. But they haven’t.

The reason for this is in the name of that particular group: the non–voters. The people who are eligible to vote, but do not vote.

Most people are unaware of just how large this group is—and the impact they have on elections by not voting.

Election Day is upon us, and it is important that we all take the time to examine the candidates to make the best decision for our region and our state. The statewide offices of Governor, Lt. Governor, Attorney General, and Comptroller are up for election, along with a U.S. Senate seat, our representative in the House of Representatives, the New York State Senate and Assembly, and the Chautauqua County Sheriff.

In 1795, Thomas Paine said, “the right of voting for representatives is the primary right by which other rights are protected. To take away this right is to reduce a man to slavery, for slavery consists in being subject to the will of another, and he that has not a vote in the election of representatives is in this case.”

Voting is a staple of our democracy. Many have fought and died for the right to vote. Nowadays, the practice of voting is so normal in our country, that we take it for granted. More and more people are looking for political change, and are often disappointed with the current political climate. The fact is, most people don’t even vote, and most of them have come to the conclusion that their vote doesn’t matter. But that is far from the truth. 

Voter Turnout: The Numbers are Mind Boggling

Voter turnout is much lower in the United States than in many other countries. According to the Pew Research Center, “nearly 56% of the U.S. voting-age population cast ballots in the 2016 presidential election.” This ranks the U.S. behind most developed nations in voter turnout.

Pew gathered data on voter turnout from the most recent elections of several developed countries. For example, the top three countries with the highest percentage of voter turnout based on the voting–age population are Belgium at 87.21%, Sweden at 82.61%, and Denmark at 80.34%. Further down the list, Germany is at 69.11% and the United Kingdom is at 62.14%.

The United States? 55.7%. This means that slightly above half of the people voted in the 2016 presidential election. During that election, while 46.1% of the popular vote was cast for Donald Trump and 48.2% was cast for Hillary Clinton, that is only including those who voted. If you take into account all the people who didn’t vote, that means out of all eligible voters, about 25.7% voted for Trump and about 26.8% voted for Clinton. 3.2% voted for other candidates and 44.3% of voters did not vote at all. 

This is mind boggling. If all the people who didn’t vote in 2016 did go out and vote, they could have swung the election toward any candidate, including those with the least amount of votes. This voting blocking—the non–voters—is huge, and that is a problem.

Voter Turnout in New York: Even Lower

This year, while we have the midterm elections, the election of our statewide offices, including governor, along with our local representatives, are very important races. These offices affect us more on the local level than the presidential elections. However, presidential elections tend to have a higher voter turnout, sometimes even double that of non-Presidential elections. In other words, the elections that affect us more on the local level have the lowest voter turnout.

According to the New York State Board of Elections, there were 10.8 million voters in New York in 2014. That year, there were 3.9 million votes cast for governor. In other words, only 36% of those who were registered to vote actually went out and voted. However, that does not count New Yorkers who are eligible to vote, but are not registered. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the voting age population of New York was 13.5 million in 2014. Just over 28% of New York’s population actually voted. A whopping 72% of New Yorkers that could vote, did not. This is an incredibly shocking statistic.

While the United States is ranked low in voter turnout among developed nations, New York has been consistently ranked among the lowest of all states. In our last gubernatorial election in 2014, New York ranked 48th in voter turnout. In the 2016 presidential election, New York’s rank was slightly better at 42nd.

Your Vote Really
Does Count

Okay, so when you look at the number of people that actually voted and go deeper into the numbers, the conclusion is startling. Of the 3.9 million votes cast for Governor of New York in 2014, 2 million were cast for Andrew Cuomo, who was elected to a second term with a percentage of 52.73% of all votes cast. However, that percentage does not reflect the voter population.

Of the 13.5 million New Yorkers who were eligible to vote in 2014, a mere 14.8% voted for the Governor. To put that another way, of all New Yorker who could vote, 14.8% of them chose Andrew Cuomo. As mentioned above, 72% didn’t show up at the polls.

If our elected officials are getting elected to office by the vote of a small group of people, are they really elected by the consent of the governed? The 9.6 million New Yorkers who didn’t vote could have swung the election in any way they wanted.

Upstate/Downstate Myth

There has been a divide in New York State between upstate and downstate. Many upstate voters attribute the victories of candidates to the voters in New York City. In 2014, outside New York City, there were 6.9 million voters. In New York City, there were 4.4 million voters. These numbers should speak for themselves. Your vote counts. 

Conclusion

Your vote does count and it is very important. Our state is one of the larger states as far as population and influence. What happens in New York can set a trend for the rest of the country. 

Many people say their vote doesn’t count, so they don’t vote. Essentially, this makes it a true statement, because the only vote that does not count is the one not cast. In the last gubernatorial election, 72% of New York’s voting population didn’t vote. Would their vote have counted had they voted? Absolutely. 

The Candidates

The Jamestown Gazette reached out to all the candidates and asked them to send us something about their candidacy. For a list of candidates, see the above graphic. See pages 7–13 to learn about the candidates. Read up on all the candidates, Google them, check out their websites, learn about them, and then on November 6, go out and make your vote count!