“Democracy is so overrated,” said Frank Underwood, the antihero politician in the Netflix drama House of Cards. Apparently, most voters in the 30th Assembly District seem to agree with that cynical assessment of our American system of government.
Turnout in New York State’s primary election on Sept. 9 was abysmal overall, but particularly pathetic in the assembly district covering parts of Astoria, Long Island City, Maspeth, Middle Village, Sunnyside and Woodside. Just 2,499 votes were cast in the race between incumbent Democratic Assemblywoman Margaret Markey and challenger Dmytro Fedkowskyj.
According to U.S. Census figures, about 75,000 registered voters live in the 30th Assembly District. The primary race was restricted to registered Democrats. The general consensus is that Democrats outnumber Republicans 3 to 1 citywide. That would mean there are about 56,000 registered Democrats in the 30th Assembly District.
Judging by the results of the race, that means just 4.5 percent of Democrats in the 30th Assembly District bothered to go out and vote. What makes it even worse is that Markey doesn’t have a general election opponent—so she has another term in office locked up well before anyone counts November votes.
So a handful of one party’s voters in a district of over 100,000 people, including nonregistered voters, decided who would represent the entire district in Albany the next two years.
What a disgrace! If the credo “Don’t complain if you don’t vote” is to be believed and practiced, then there figures to be an awful lot of silence in the 30th Assembly District over the next two years.
It’s no wonder that city politicians are now working to get just about anyone in New York City eligible to vote, including illegal immigrants. Then again, not many citizens are exercising their right to vote anyway, so it’s questionable how successful this scheme will be in tipping elections one way or another.
Why aren’t New Yorkers voting? There are so many excuses given—from voter frustration with the government they have, to the voting process being complex, to voters being unwilling or unable to take a few minutes out of their morning or evening to exercise their right, to just plain apathy over the whole political process.
Look at the world we’re living in. In Eastern Europe, Russian President Vladimir Putin—the world’s biggest Soviet Union lover—is doing his best to reunite the dissolved communist republic, taking aim at annexing areas of Ukraine. He already took the Crimean peninsula and installed his own, special brand of “democracy”—only after sending armed interlopers to instigate trouble.
Nobody in parts of Iraq and Syria now occupied by the group known as the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) voted to have that brutal regime in power. ISIS practically kills for sport and does it in a particularly public and barbaric way. They rule by the bullet, not by the ballot, and they won’t change until enough bullets force them out.
The late, great President Franklin D. Roosevelt once said, “Nobody will ever deprive the American people of the right to vote, except for the American people themselves—and the only way they could do this is by not voting.” Voter apathy in any election, big or small, is inexcusable.
We live in the greatest democracy the world has ever known, and we treat it as if it’s all overrated. We fight (or sanction) to compel aggressors to let people in certain parts of the world determine their own destiny. But recently, we seem incapable of practicing what we preach.
Don’t take your vote for granted. You have the right to vote; use it.