Last week, Mr. Jeff Rubin wrote regarding “Voter Apathy” in the Jewish community (“What Happened to the Jewish Vote?” (November 18, 2021).
While Mr. Rubin is likely correct about the percentages of Jews living in Teaneck and the number of people that don’t seem to care to vote, several points were missing and worth emphasizing.
Initially, it was unclear why Mr. Rubin mentioned only three candidates (Secemski, Fein and Elkaryani), as Jews in town can and likely did vote for all seven of the candidates on the ballot. There are legitimate “self-interest” reasons (e.g., the desire to vote for those that wouldn’t take away benefits such as busing etc.) that could have underscored the point, but the reader was left to wonder.
What would have been far more supportive of his conclusion that “too many don’t seem to care” are the statistics on voting locally.
Teaneck had 32,107 registered voters on election day.
As for the 13,088 votes for each of the municipal questions:
9,871 people cast a vote for question 1 (moving local council elections to November), meaning that 3,217 (24.5%) of the people that voted decided not to vote on the question.
8,790 people cast a vote for question 2 (a program that will switch all residential electricity to third-party energy providers who purchase renewable credits, unless you opt out). This means that 4,298 (32.8%) of people walked into the voting booth and skipped a question that will directly impact them personally.
Then there was the board of education race.
Each of the 13,088 voters going to the polls had three votes available for board of education trustees. Of the possible 39,264 BOE votes, only 24,678 were cast. This means that 15,300 votes were not cast—by those already voting in the election. The margin of victory for BOE trustee was 425 votes.
Compare those local voting rates to the vote for Governor. 12,887 (out of 13,088) or 98.5% of those voting voted for a candidate in the governor’s race.
When you consider that approximately 8,000 (25%) of registered voters never voted in a general election in the last decade, “apathy” doesn’t do the situation justice.
Don’t get me wrong. I’ve always argued that people have a right to free speech and a right to remain silent. Similarly, they have a right to vote and a right to abstain from voting. So, if you chose not to vote—consciously—that’s a choice I respect.
But when a third of the 40.7% of voters that showed up to vote couldn’t even be bothered with pushing a button for local choices (that affect them personally), and some 25% of voters don’t ever show up at all, how can we expect any success from our get-out-the-vote efforts?
Of course, I’m open to ideas.