It goes without saying that the 2018 midterm elections are crucially important. We have been encouraged to see so many—from Tech:NYC’s community and beyond—get involved in the national process. That said, New Yorkers still face a lot of big, local political choices this year, many of which will come up on primary day, next Thursday, September 13. It is crucial that we all participate in these consequential decisions.
In some ways this primary is more than an election over issues and candidates. It presents an opportunity to reverse a bad trend in our state. As many know, New York has had historically, embarrassingly low voter turnout.
One needn’t look further than New York’s last general state election, held in 2014, when, only 29 percent of eligible voters cast ballots. During the consequential 2016 presidential election that number was 57 percent, which - while better - was the eighth worst in the country.
We must reverse this trend. New York is the fourth most populous state with the third biggest economy in the country. What happens here often sets the tone for the rest of the nation. To remain the economic and cultural capital of America, we must match our social and economic innovations with an equally robust culture of civic engagement.
Solving this problem won’t happen overnight. The truth is New York has many rules holding back participation. Automatic voter registration has yet to become a reality here as it has in many other states, while we allow neither early voting nor same day registration. And absentee ballot requests must still be submitted in paper form. Both data and experience clearly show that reforming at least some, if not all, of these regressive policies would increase participation. We hope that Albany will take on this crucial challenge in 2019.
In the meantime, the most immediate way to change the status quo is by simply voting. As a community that values democracy and engagement, we should take this call seriously. Moreover, we should also show up to vote because the stakes have seldom been greater.
From immigration and net neutrality to the future of transportation and promoting tech literacy, New York lawmakers face a lot of important decisions in the coming years. Our community cares about these consequential policy issues—both because they impact our members’ bottom lines and, just as importantly, because they directly impact our state’s ability to to thrive and ensure that all New Yorkers have a chance to benefit from the growing tech ecosystem.
While differences may always exist between voters, we must universally agree that apathy is not an option. For the sake of attracting talent, creating growth, and making an impact, it’s imperative we all get involved in the process.
It isn’t just the issues that matter, though. The offices being decided are also significant. In the Tech:NYC election guide, you can learn more about the individual offices up for election and why they matter. Taken together, these elections will decide the tone and scope of our state’s tech policy.
Technology stands poised to become a bigger part of the economy and an increasingly prominent feature of everyday life in the coming years. It’s therefore important that tech policy is thoughtful, prudent, and responsible.
This cannot happen if our sector isn’t in dialogue with public officials. It certainly won’t happen if we refuse to be actively involved. That means voting must become second nature to us - and there’s no better time to start than next week.
Voting at polls by Rob Crandall/Shutterstock