By Sima Shapiro
Growing up in a family where my parents always emphasized the importance of voting in every election, I have always waited eagerly for the day when I could finally vote. So here we are, Election Day 2020, but since I don’t turn 18 until next month, I will have to wait just a little longer to show support for my community. This would not be so frustrating if it were not for the fact that so many people who can vote do not exercise their right to do so. And as a result of a low voter turnout in our community, many great opportunities and political advantages have been lost.
Why is it that such a fundamental part of being a citizen of our country gets passed up? Many people make the argument that their “vote doesn’t count.” This common belief is actually not true. In 2013, Pesach Osina lost his bid for city council by only 79 votes! That’s 79 people and more who did not vote simply because they thought “it didn’t count.” More recently, in 2019, Melinda Katz won the Democratic primary for Queens District Attorney by a mere 60 votes over progressive candidate Tiffany Caban.
Voting in every election not only allows us to elect the individuals we want to see in office, but it also strengthens the voice of our community. The elected officials can see which communities care enough to vote and they will pay more attention to what the people within those communities have to say. They can see that we have an estimated potential of 5,000 voters in the greater Far Rockaway community and yet only 3,500 have even registered to vote! Even more upsetting is that of the 3,500 registered voters, the most who have ever voted in a single election was only 2,800 for Phil Goldfeder in 2011. That’s a bit above half of our community’s voting potential.
As a high-school student who wishes she could vote, it’s extremely frustrating to watch as those who can vote waste the opportunity. In recent months, during the COVID pandemic, I sat at home unable to attend school in person and couldn’t help but wonder if stronger voter turnout would have resulted in more favorable responses from some of our elected officials. I am asking parents and eligible voters of our community to put your reasons for not voting aside and please go and vote on November 3 for all those who wish they could. Now more than ever, it’s critical to participate in the process that gives our community a voice in the pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness.
Sima Shapiro is the founder of Teens for Getting Parents to Vote and is serving her fourth term on student council at Machon Sara High School – Torah Academy for Girls.