By: Yitzchak Carroll | Opinions  | 

Why Local Elections Matter — So Go Vote

In a week or so, many of us will head to the polls and make our opinions heard in the democracy we are all so privileged to partake in.

Excited to cast our votes, many of us will focus largely on high-profile federal races for the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. But despite the lack of buzz, state and local races that are on the ballot this fall are just as — if not more — critical to the future of our Modern Orthodox Jewish communities.

Right here, in New York State, imperative issues hang in the balance, to be determined by the results of November’s elections. Legislation and funding decisions that impact each and every one of us and our families. But thankfully, we have a say in the results — and now, more than ever, it is critical for us to leverage our voices and votes to ensure just that.

Last session, bills were introduced in the State Legislature to defund anti-Israel groups, such as Students for Justice in Palestine, that wreak havoc upon our friends at secular colleges. Legislation was put forth to bar companies that support the BDS movement from receiving state contracts and pension investments. Measures were put forth to bolster educational and security aid to the yeshivas and Jewish day schools many of our siblings attend. And almost all of these items were met with little success in Albany.

State and local governments make the decisions that have the greatest impacts upon our lives. One state statute in New York State tax law makes our Caf Cards non-refundable at the end of the year while banning “Caf-Daddying” too. Another state law prohibits the ACT exam from being given in New York State during the month of February. While the federal races may be the ones generating the buzz and hype, it is the state and local elections that largely determine the quality of our lives.

No party has a monopoly on solutions or good policy. Both parties have their strengths and weaknesses at every level of government. As former New York City Mayor Fiorello La Guardia famously said, “there is no Democratic or Republican way of cleaning the streets.” What matters are the individual, local representatives and their takes on the issues that matter most to us and our communities at-large.

The power of a local representative cannot be underestimated. Be it their ability to shepherd legislation to passage, steer funds to their district or be a vocal advocate for their constituents, the power of local, representative democracy is critical to beneficial public policy and its impact upon our daily lives.

Before you go out and vote, do your research. Find out what the candidates on your ballot stand for — and whether they will support the issues that matter to you. Engage them and ensure that they are aware of you and your community’s needs. Make sure your voice is heard and your interests will be well-represented in government. Because, as the saying in government goes, “if you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu.”

Photo Caption: The New York State Capitol in Albany