Why You Should Vote This November and Every November



David Hunter, Contributing Writer

On November 7, people in New Jersey and Virginia will go the polls to vote on who will become the next governor of their states.

In both of these races, the incumbents, Governor Chris Christie (R) of New Jersey and Governor Terry McAuliffe (D) of Virginia, are ineligible to run for re-election due to term limits.

In Virginia, there is an extremely close race between the Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam, the Democratic candidate, and Ed Gillespie, the Republican nominee.

In New Jersey, Phil Murphy (D), a former ambassador to Germany under President Obama, is running against Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno (R), who is looking to succeed Chris Christie.

Former President Obama has endorsed and appeared at events for both Terry McAuliffe and Phil Murphy.

According to NJ.com, in the last gubernatorial election in New Jersey, turnout was around 38 percent, a record low. This beat the previous low of the 2009 election, which had a turnout of 47 percent. This means that over half the registered voters in the state did not participate in both elections.

There are many reasons for this. Some believe that their candidate will always win because of the political geography of their state, while others show apathy for the binary two-party political system or cynicism in general.

New Jersey is a state that typically favors liberal candidates. As a result, many voters with liberal leanings choose not to vote because they assume that the liberal candidate will always prevail.

However, this is not always the case, as Chris Christie won the last two gubernatorial races as a conservative Republican. Christie may be unpopular now, but he managed to win two gubernatorial races, in part due to low turnout.

Another reason is the binary two-party political system. Each election cycle, people are presented with two main choices, a Democrat or a Republican. An assertion commonly made by prospective voters is that they do not wish to vote for either candidate because they are “the same” and it does not matter who they choose.

This is a very pessimistic argument, and arguably not very insightful. The proposals brought forth by Kim Guadagno and Phil Murphy could not be more different. Guadagno is in favor of low property taxes; Murphy is in favor of increasing spending on infrastructure and education. Murphy is in favor of legalizing marijuana, while Guadagno is against legalization.

Murphy wants a public bank to provide low-interest loans to students and to transition New Jersey into a clean energy economy. On the other hand, Guadagno was against the 23-cent gas tax increase.

These two candidates could not be more different on the issues. Phil Murphy’s plans are not the same as Kim Guadagno’s plans; Kim Guadagno’s plans are not the same as Phil Murphy’s plans. These are two different visions for New Jersey.

Although these candidates are at the front and center of the debates, there are always many more candidates on the periphery. Third parties, such as the Green Party and the Libertarian Party, also have candidates on the ballot. There is always someone to vote for.

Every year in America, we have federal, state and local elections. While federal elections gain the most attention, state and local elections are arguably more important. Down-ballot races are essential to our democracy as well.

There are many people who do not vote for lesser offices because they do not like the people on the top of the ticket. By making this choice, people are disregarding important decisions, such as the people who will sit on their town council or on state legislatures. These matters may seem small and insignificant, but they will accumulate over time.

One’s decision to not vote can lead to them having no say on issues that will affect them the most: health care, the economy and education, to name a few.

Your vote does matter, but if you chose not to exercise your right to vote, then your vote and your voice are irrelevant. It’s empathy, not apathy, that builds better societies. Do your fellow citizens a favor and vote this November.