Today is the New Haven municipal election but there isn’t much activity at the polls in my ward (Ward 1). That’s because the aldermanic candidate (Mike Jones, a Yale student) is running unopposed and incumbent John Destefano is expected to be a clear winner in the mayoral race.
I bumped into a friend of mine at the library and she asked me, “Have you voted today?” While I admitted then (and admit now), I have yet to vote, I do fully intend to be at the New Haven library by the poll’s closing time. But why?
- Voting voices support. Every vote for Mike Jones is a vote for confidence in our representative and his concern for our Ward’s issues. You don’t have the option to vote against him, you can only abstain in protest or not vote. The polls don’t distinguish between passive protests and sheer laziness (you have to actually get off your butt and fill in the Abstain bubble to show any real discontent). An unopposed candidate with many votes demonstrates an ability to unite constituents. Each vote, therefore, provides future power to the representative and prioritizes the issues that concern his Ward.
- Abstaining voices opposition. Go walk to the polls and fill in that Abstain bubble if you don’t like the unopposed candidate. It gets filed in official records and legal documents (and isn’t that what democracy is all about?). You can still Rock the Vote and not actually vote for anyone–abstaining can actually hold a lot of clout (I imagine) in unopposed elections.
- Voting shows participation. Unopposed candidates limit democracy and discourage political activism because citizens passively accept the inevitable outcome. Taking the time to walk to the New Haven public library and cast a vote serves to maintain engagement in the local political process. Voting shows the city (both officials and local neighbors) that individuals are still monitoring municipal politics, that individuals are concerned about local issues, and that individuals are still involved in bringing positive change to their community.
- Voting increases accountability. It’s harder to hold your local representative accountable if you had no role in their election. Frankly, he is your politician–whether you voted or not–but you get a lot more credibility (at least with me–and that’s important) if you demonstrated your political activism right from the start. Go the polls, vote, and take ownership in your representative’s office. Or go to the polls, abstain and then yell at him. Either way, you’re more legit for being part of the process.
- Voting demonstrates support for the primaries. In Ward 1, Mike is running unopposed because he won the primaries last semester. That’s not the end of the election process though. If the above 4 reasons aren’t enough, my final bullet point is that he deserves another vote. As a reward for winning. Like a soccer trophy. Go give your representative a soccer trophy.