Just Vote!| October 21, 2020
Voting is critical, and every single vote — especially in the frum community — counts
Last week, I traveled all over New York and New Jersey, talking to people from Brooklyn to Lakewood about the importance of voting in one of the biggest elections in history. I heard the excitement about the election itself, but I also heard that many people plan not to vote.
The excuses were troubling: “My vote doesn’t count.” “In a blue state, the presidential election is basically a given.” “I don’t like the candidates.” “These issues don’t affect me.”
Then there’s the perception that ballots will end up tossed in a dumpster or lost in the back of a post office. What’s the point, right?
Wrong. Not one of these excuses is valid. Voting is critical, and every single vote — especially in the frum community — counts. Here are the facts you should know as we face this year’s election.
First, local races have a major impact on our day-to-day lives. State and local politicians determine issues like property tax rates and how many police officers patrol our streets. Their decisions influence where we can put up an eiruv and whether zoning laws permit neighborhood shtibels. They also decide whether to offer yeshivos funding for necessities like busing, STEM education, security, and support services. So if you’re turned off to voting because you believe the presidential Electoral College result is a given, remember that the local races make a difference in your children’s and grandchildren’s lives.
Second, politicians listen to people who vote consistently. When you call a local political official with a request or complaint, they can look up your voting record. They can’t see who you voted for, but they can see if you’ve voted. If you haven’t bothered to show up at a polling booth since 2011, why would they listen to your kvetching now? But if you’ve been voting every year, they pay attention. Your vote can keep them in office or kick them out in the next election. You hold that power.
Beyond that, citizens who vote consistently often have friends who vote consistently. That’s a ripple effect politicians would be foolish to ignore. Local races are often close — hinging on as few as 20 votes. You’ve been to Shabbos meals with more than 20 voters. Multiply that by the broader frum community, and now we’re really talking influence.
By the same token, “protest anti-votes” do not count. If you don’t vote, you’re not heard. You forfeit your right to participate in the democratic system, along with your right to complain if you don’t like the outcome.
Finally, let’s dispel the voter fraud myths. Most states have had secure mail-in ballot options for years. This year will be no different. Every municipality in New Jersey has at least one ballot drop box monitored by cameras and emptied daily by police and Board of Elections officials. Other states have similar efforts in place.
You can also check your state’s board of elections website for your ballot status. The board of elections will notify you if your ballot is contested so you can verify it. If you mail your ballot, no need to second-guess the United States Postal Service. We rely on it for paychecks, tax refunds, and Amazon packages. We can rely on it to safely deliver our ballots, as well.
We have every reason to cast our votes and no reason to abstain. We need every member of our community to show our elected officials that we care, we participate, and we are unstoppable.
We know that our community responds when we need them — and when we remove the obstacles to voting. Two weeks ago, our organization registered more than 1,000 Williamsburg residents in just 48 hours! Volunteers around the country are making over 10,000 calls to remind our community to vote in the coming weeks.
If you’re reading this and you’re inspired, share it with a potential voter. Our friends are significantly more likely to vote when we reach out to them.
Strong turnout builds our reputation as a politically active force to be reckoned with. Our community has forfeited valuable resources and silenced “our voice” for too long by ignoring Election Day. That era is over. Drop the excuses, join the effort and vote.
Maury Litwack has more than two decades of political experience, including work as a Congressional staffer. Maury is the executive director of the Teach Coalition, a project of the Orthodox Union that fights for greater government funding for our yeshivos.
(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 832)
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