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Discussion Question, Kathy Dimaya

Discussion: NYC Mayoral Elections

This week, we asked our bloggers to respond to the following question about our city’s upcoming mayoral elections. Check back in this week to read their answers, given in the following posts!

As you all know the New York City mayoral elections are coming up on November 5th, between current Public Advocate Bill de Blasio (D) and Joe Lhota, former deputy mayor under Rudolph Guilian (R).

You may also know that NYC has an extremely low voter turnout, and NY State was ranked the lowest in voter turnout in the country in 2010.

This report, prepared for the NYC Campaign Board in conjunction with NYU Wagner, interestingly enough, depicts interesting findings and attempts to identify and understand the factors that make this so.

Here’s a cool graphic that represents the percentages of voters in various parts of the city in the 2009 mayoral election.

Another issue on the voting front came to light this summer when the Supreme Court ruled that the provision of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which stipulated that several specific states required federal approval before they changed their voting laws, was no longer relevant. Immediately upon this 5-4 decision, Texas passed a voter identification law that was previously blocked, and made redistricting plans. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg dissented from the bench and explained that “the Voting Rights Act had properly changed from ‘first-generation barriers to ballot access’ to ‘second-generation barriers’ like racial gerrymandering and laws requiring at-large voting in places with a sizable black minority”. She maintained that this provision was “effective in thwarting such efforts.”

It is interesting that while politicians in some parts of the country are working to effectively disband the minority vote for their advantage, others are attempting to rein it in. This takes us back to the mayoral elections, in which De Blasio’s campaign has capitalized on factors such as his biracial family, and the fact that his son attends public high school. Check out this article.

What issues does this candidate speak to that are garnering this specific vote, as well as the votes of many other demographics? Can some of the low voter turnout be attributed to the presumption of the outcome, as NYC is the bluest city in one of the bluest states? How do we get our demographic, the young voter age 18-29 to get more politically active, and what would this look like on our campus? Do you agree that with the Supreme Court ruling that this provision has lost its relevance, or do you maintain that it’s still a necessity? Do you believe in the power of the vote in our current system?

– – –

Here’s what Kathy had to say:

The political atmosphere in New York City is a complete turnaround to that of Houston, my hometown. However, the perception of elections are exactly the same anywhere in the country: if you live in a historically Republican or Democratic area, voting for the other party would not matter at all. In Texas, the feeling of being lost in a sea of opposing voters in not unfamiliar. As one of the most Republican states in the union, Democratic voters feel as if their vote does not count, and to a large extent, it does not. What are the chances that the lone ranger will prevail against the large opposition? Aside from recent events, such as the short-lived success of Democratic Senator Wendy Davis’ filibuster against the abortion bill in Texas, there has been slow progress in proving the assumption wrong.

Right now, there is very little power in voting. Even the presidential election, which operates under a guise of democracy, is decided by the electoral college, not popular vote. The majority of states have utterly predictable voting results in national elections. New York has voted Democrat in the last four elections, as well as much of New England and the West Coast. In addition, the Midwest, from Texas up to Montana and Idaho, have voted Republican in those same elections.

On the other hand, political practices such as gerrymandering has been met with contentious debate, districting areas that would allow a certain candidate or party to win. For a country that prides itself in a fair, equally-representative government, it is a wonder how an institution like gerrymandering is considered legal.

It is no doubt due to this kind of data that half of all legally-capable American citizens decide not vote. Of course, low voter turnout can be a result of many things, such as limited access to voter stations and prior personal engagements, but this explanation seems much more plausible. Furthermore, the 18-29 age demographic is almost always ranked the lowest in voter turnout.

Amidst the current government shutdown, young adults are not feeling the effects at all. College students are still going to classes, doing homework, and having fun, and we have lived the last 12 days oblivious to the national consequences of the closure of the US government. Young voters are only provoked by issues that specifically pertain to them. Discussions about Medicare, mortgages, and immigration are not exactly the problems that the average young voter faces today. It will be difficult to get the young interested in politics if the agenda does not include issues that they are concerned with.

In the 2013 New York City mayoral elections, Democratic nominee Bill de Blasio is doing a great job targeting his policies at usually disenfranchised minorities, such as Hispanics, African Americans, and women. In some respects, the amount of minority support he has garnished is astounding. For the last twenty years, New York City has thrived under a mostly Republican agenda. Crime has significantly diminished, and the perception of a dangerous and unsafe New York has long been shattered. Nonetheless, minorities during those administrations have not experienced the benefits of New York’s so-called progress. De Blasio’s attack on the controversial stop-and-frisk program of Bloomberg’s age has definitely gathered a lot of support. Knowing the program has affected mostly African American and Latino voters, de Blasio has guaranteed for himself a large voter turnout in those communities. But like all politics, de Blasio is employing a sneaky tactic. He composes an enticing policy agenda, gathers the minority vote, wins the election, and as most politicians do when they win, de Blasio will probably not implement the policies he promised.

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Discussion

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  1. Pingback: We’d Might As Well Vote Tomorrow | Journal of Politics and International Affairs - October 18, 2013

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