My 90-year-old mother received her absentee ballot in the mail last week, and proudly voted in the upcoming election.
It was the 18th Presidential election in which she has cast her ballot (she first voted for a President way back in 1952), and the 70th consecutive year in which she has exercised her right to vote.
As you can tell, she takes this privilege very seriously. In fact, this past June she was determined to vote in the New York State Primary, even though she was recovering from the effects of the coronavirus that had landed her in the hospital for a few days just weeks before. She called a cab, and made it to the polling booth right before closing time.
I mention this not to laud my mother’s determination or to sing her praises as a patriotic American – although she certainly deserves those accolades.
It’s rather to lament the fact that the right to vote seems to carry less and less importance to many of the members of the Orthodox community of which I am a part, especially among those in the younger demographic.
I’ve heard from several people that because we live in the tri-state area (NY, NJ, and CT), our vote is meaningless because the Democrats will certainly carry those states anyway, regardless of who we vote for.
I’ve heard from others that they are choosing not to vote this year because they dislike both candidates and don’t want to cast a vote for either of the two Presidential hopefuls.
And then there are still others who simply don’t think it’s all that important to vote, and would rather not waste their time on the process.
What a shame!
First of all, even if you are of the opinion that your vote for a president doesn’t matter, there are local elections, which have a major impact on our day-to-day lives. There have been cases where a local election can be decided by less than 50 votes, and your vote can sometimes make a significant difference.
Second, politicians listen to those who vote regularly. When you communicate your views to a politician, their staff will often check your voting record (they cannot see who you voted for, but they can definitely see if you voted). They are much more likely to take your comments more seriously if you have voted regularly than if you didn’t.
Finally, a strong voter turnout in our Orthodox community helps build our reputation as a politically active force – and a group that should be listened to.
I distinctly remember the first Presidential election in which I voted. It was in 1976 (Jimmy Carter ran against Gerald Ford). The law had recently changed to allow people as young as 18 years old to vote. I was in college at the time, followed the election closely, and proudly pulled the lever in the voting booth to exercise my right as a United States citizen on Election Day. The idea of passing up this privilege – which many individuals do routinely these days — was something completely foreign to me. Of course I was going to vote!
Since then I’ve never missed voting on Election Day.
Part of this stems from the importance my parents placed on voting. But it also is something that I think that’s related to my religious upbringing. When I was growing up, we better appreciated the religious freedoms we were being given in the United States of America. Today it seems that too many religious Jews take their ability to openly practice their religion for granted. And that’s a terrible attitude to have.
The upcoming election might just be the most important election in our lifetime. The political stakes are very high. While we may not be living in a swing state where our vote might make the difference in who wins the election, each of our votes still counts. It behooves us both as loyal citizens of our country and as proud members of the Jewish community to exercise our right to vote.
So … whether you choose to vote this year via mail or in person at the voting booth, don’t pass up the opportunity to participate in one of the hallmarks of our democratic society. Please cast your vote for the candidate of your choice this coming Election Day!