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Opinion

Editorial: Voting is our right. Make your mark!

An illustration of voting on a New York

An illustration of voting on a New York ballot. Credit: Matt Davies

New Yorkers do many things well, but voting isn't one of them. Especially if there's no close marquee election to rile us up.

Four years ago, when we last chose a governor and all of our members of Congress, less than 40 percent of eligible voters bothered to vote. New York was dead last for gubernatorial turnout.

The same economic malaise that affected us then colors this election. The mood is glum, expectations and dreams are pinched. Mix in the bitter partisanship and stagnation of Washington and it's easy to see why voters feel casting a ballot won't matter.

But that's a mistake.

On Tuesday, Long Islanders will help decide whom to send to the House of Representatives and whether to keep an incumbent governor, attorney general and state comptroller. We'll determine whether Republicans keep power in the State Senate.

There are two important ballot issues: One would authorize $2 billion in state borrowing to pay for school technology and construction that's normally part of district spending. Another would enshrine the method for drawing electoral maps into the state constitution. Both have important long-term consequences.

All of these are worth weighing in on.

We could also try to convince you by revealing our David Letterman list of why you should vote. No. 4: It's a great way to spend time with neighbors, a block party with ballots.

We could get solemn and remind you that your forefathers died -- literally died -- to give you this right.

We could attempt to shame you with images from foreign countries of people waiting in endless lines at polling places to exercise their newly granted right.

But the most cogent argument is that, purely and simply, voting matters.

Look what's changed since New York last elected a governor. We have a tax cap that has slowed the rise of property taxes. The Long Island Power Authority has been downsized and now a private operator will be held accountable for services and costs. The minimum wage was increased, income taxes for the middle class were cut and estate taxes were reduced for the wealthy. We have tougher gun laws. We have same-sex marriage.

Love those developments or hate them, they happened because of the people we chose to go to Albany.

Look what's happened in Washington -- nothing. Congress is paralyzed by partisanship. The brutal battle for control of the Senate is being waged not over issues, but on who can best get core voters to the ballot box. We'll concede that disillusionment is a national phenomenon, the sinking feeling that government doesn't work.

But frustration with Washington is no reason for New Yorkers to stay home Tuesday. Pick someone you think can work with the other side, someone who is a leader for an issue you care deeply about. You should at least be able to find someone or something to vote against.

And it's not just whom you vote for that matters. In the governor's race, what line you vote on also counts. The overall tally on each gubernatorial line determines where all parties appear on ballots for four years, from president to county executive. In 2010, Andrew M. Cuomo got more votes as a Democrat than any candidate, so Democrats have the coveted top spot.

This year he is seeking re-election on four different lines because New York, unfortunately, is one of the few remaining states that allows fusion candidates. Cuomo is running on the Democratic, Working Families, Independence and Women's Equality lines. Republican Rob Astorino also has the Conservative and the newly formed Stop Common Core lines.

Doing it the old-fashioned way with their own candidates are the Greens, with Howie Hawkins, and the Libertarians, with Michael McDermott. If a party gets fewer than 50,000 votes for a gubernatorial candidate, it no longer gets an automatic spot on the ballot.

The most intriguing is Hawkins, whose platform is the New Deal with solar power. Hawkins could poll as much as 10 percent. If disaffected Democrats and Working Families members migrate there, or women vote for Cuomo on the Equality line, the Greens could end up the No. 3 party in the state. This year, more than most, politicians will be analyzing voter sentiment not only from the final tally but on how the winner got there.

 

Should it be more convenient to vote in New York? Yes. Early voting would help those who need assistance getting to the polls, or have work and child care conflicts.

Still, voting doesn't take long. It's not terribly complicated. If you need a ride, let someone know. Take the kids with you and explain how this act fulfills a basic civil right, one that is the cornerstone of our democracy.

And if there is no other reason, consider it a license. If you don't take part in the process, you have no right to complain about the result.

Don't let someone else make the decision for you.

Please vote.

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