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Op-Ed: If You Don't Vote, Stop Complaining: It's That Simple!

Monday, September 08, 2014
Op-ed by Ezra Friedlander
It seems that everybody has an opinion these days, especially about politics. Everyone seems to know just how we should run our city, our state, and our country. Some express their opinions in shul, others in conversations, and still others on blogs, WhatsApp, or Twitter.

They spend hours debating and pontificating on the evils of our political establishment. But they won’t do the one thing that would have the most impact. They don't turn their feelings into positive action. They don't vote.

Tomorrow, Tuesday September 9th, is Primary Day. That should be the perfect opportunity for every member of our community age 18 and over to go out to the voting booth and vote. And it would be the one action that would truly make a difference. It's as simple as that.

Years ago, our community was feared for its voting prowess. In fact, Presidents of the United States would come to thirteenth avenue to campaign. The last time that happened was back in 1976 when Gerald Ford, then the incumbent, came to our neighborhood. And in 1968, then Vice President and Democratic nominee Hubert Humphrey came here as well. Would anyone even dream that a presidential candidate would grace us with his presence today? I don't think so. We rate much lower on the totem pole than so many other communities in the city and state that turn out in much greater numbers than our community does and rightfully so! I say we have a real reckoning to do.

Sure we make a lot of noise and we use up a lot of media ink. But we don't do the one act that is most important. I know the naysayers out there are probably thinking, "What's the use? My vote won't count for much in the grand scheme of things." I disagree. All you have to do is look over your shoulder to find a recent election that was won by mere tens of individual votes.

Just a few weeks ago a U.S. Senator by the name of Brian Schatz was elected to fill the term of Senator Daniel Inouye in Hawaii, who was one of our community's closest allies. That election was decided literally by several hundred votes. And while Hawaii may seem very far away to us, the impact of that election affects us all. Senator Schatz is Jewish and a close friend of the community as well. He is relatively young and chances are that he could maintain his position as Senator for many decades. All because of a relative 'handfu' of votes.

But it's not just about winning. The mere fact that we vote creates a statistic that will force elected officials on every level to sit up and take notice of our community's needs. They would begin not only to listen to us but to implement the changes that we seek. This is not rocket science. It's simple arithmetic.

The technology is available today that allows candidates to zero in on exactly who is voting. They know how many votes are coming from every district and every block, even from every home. And they are watching those numbers carefully. Often, an elected official from a different district or Borough may one day run for city wide or state wide office. That official and his staff will certainly examine the voting patterns of the community at large. They will know exactly who votes and why.

Dismissing all the candidates as unworthy is simply foolish and counterproductive in the extreme. In an election, people appear on the ballot and ultimately one of them will be elected to office. The choice is there before you. Make an informed decision and vote!

Primary elections are held every year or two and the turnout from our community is abysmal. When I go to the voting booths, I spend maybe five or ten minutes there because hardly anyone else shows up. It doesn't make sense. We insist that we are displeased with how the country or state or city is run and are up in arms when policy affecting our community is not in sync with our values/interests, but when Election Day or Primary Day comes around, the streets leading to the polls are empty. Where are all those dissatisfied voters? Why aren't they making their voices heard?

So instead of acting like you know how to run the city/state/country better than anyone else, why don't you do something worthwhile? Go out and vote.

Ezra Friedlander is CEO of the Friedlander Group, a public policy consulting company based in New York City and Washington DC. Follow on twitter @EzraFriedlander or via Contact via

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