Assemblyman Jones: The Importance of Voting, Especially in Off-Year Elections

October 30, 2017

On November 8, 2016 roughly 60 percent of voting age Americans made their way to local town halls, churches, fire departments, schools etc. to cast their ballot in the General Election. Voters made their picks for President of the United States, Federal and State Representatives and even selected members of City Council. However, 2017 is an “off-year” election, leading many statisticians to believe voter turnout will be low.

Two years into a Presidential term, roughly a third of U.S. Senator’s, the majority of Governor’s and every Congressman and Congresswoman are subject to mid-term elections. According to PBS News Hour, in 2014, roughly 36 percent of those eligible to vote nationwide cast their ballot. To put this into perspective that is the lowest voter turnout rate since 1942. Only 29.5 percent of registered voters in New York participated in the mid-term elections of 2014.1 In an off-year election such as 2017, it is estimated that one in five eligible voters will cast their ballots in local elections. So why is it important to head to the polls this year on November 7?

While the local races on the front of the ballot will garner much of the attention on Election Day, don’t forget to flip the ballot over as there are several statewide issues for you to decide on. This year, the back of the ballot will include two constitutional amendments: one to strip corrupt officials of their taxpayer-funded pensions, and another to create the Adirondack Land Bank for public projects and utilities. The third ballot measure asks voters whether they want to hold a constitutional convention in 2019.

Much like general elections during a Presidential race, before the election on November 7 voters will consider how each candidate’s role will affect their lives. Many cities, towns and villages will decide who they want their municipal officials to be, which will have a major influence on government spending at the local level. Issues such as economic development, safety, healthcare and education weigh heavily on most voters as they prepare to choose their leaders. Although there will few statewide and federal elections, I would argue that off-year elections are equally important, especially with the addition of these three proposals that could have a major impact on the lives of every New Yorker.

This year, my colleagues and I supported a number of bills that support fair and equal elections throughout the state. We also discussed legislation that would inform voters of changes to election law, election finance reform and more. This commitment will ensure that our constituents remain engaged and involved in the election process. When we head back to Albany in January, I look forward to supporting legislation that intends to make it easier for people to become registered and cast their vote.