The 2021 elections in New York and New Jersey will shape each state and New York City for decades to come. Citizens will choose New York City’s mayor, New Jersey’s governor, and city and state legislators in both states. Yet many citizens won’t vote. Some won’t even register to vote.
I’ve heard plenty of people grumble and gripe that they don’t gain anything from voting and don’t lose anything from staying home. They kvetch that nothing changes, no matter who is in office. So why bother?
If you feel this way or know someone who does, it’s time to recognize what’s really at stake.
Think about it this way. If you don’t pay your taxes, the IRS will charge you penalties, seize your assets, and freeze your passport. If you don’t stop at a red light, you will get a traffic ticket. None of us want those losses, so we comply with the laws.
On the other hand, when you don’t vote, you don’t suffer a loss of money or property, so some people think it’s not worth the effort. However, that is not the case. There actually are big penalties associated with not voting. You lose an important voice, you lose your opportunity to change public policy, and you lose your civic power. Your identity becomes less visible in the civic process, and when your identity doesn’t count, neither do your interests, perspectives, or values. Multiply that invisibility by thousands in a community who also are choosing not to vote, and your losses are far higher than a $50 traffic ticket.
As a veteran of congressional and local campaigns and the director of the OU’s Teach Coalition, which fights for more than 200,000 yeshiva and day school students in the region, I know firsthand what our communities stand to lose if we don’t vote. Silent communities don’t get funding for nonpublic schools. They don’t get government money to keep neighborhood shuls safe. They don’t get updated roads, fairer taxes, or better education for their children and grandchildren. State and local officials aren’t mentalists who entertain at shul dinners — they can’t read minds. They’re not going to magically guess and solve your concerns unless we make our voices heard.
On the other hand, when we do vote, elected officials can learn what we need — and they listen. Voting power has helped our team increase funding to Jewish schools by more than $1 billion. That includes STEM education, security, support for families with children who have special needs, and healthy lunches.
Our votes influence how government officials allocate funds and implement laws that impact your family, your business, your community, and your children’s education. Do you want a say in those decisions, or would you rather stay silent?
Voting gets results. If you’re not yet registered to vote, we make it easy and fast. You can call, text, or send WhatsApp messages with your questions to (646) 459-5162. And we also have two separate web portals for New York and New Jersey voter information, where our staff will help you when you register online. For New York, it’s teachcoalition.org/votenys. For New Jersey, it’s teachcoalition.org/votenj/.
If you are already registered, make sure to stay on top of the election and deadlines. Sign up for our updates, and we’ll keep you posted. And if you’re ready to really step up, we can help you become a vote booster and lead a voting effort in your community. To learn more, go to teachcoalition.org/join/.
Teach Coalition is calling on our community to help our voice be heard. When you vote, you make a difference. By becoming a vote booster, you will take leadership in your community by encouraging your shul members and friends to get out and vote.
The choice has never been clearer. If you stay silent, our community loses. If you vote, our communities and our families can win — and win big.
Maury Litwack is the founder and executive director of the Teach Coalition, a multistate advocacy network responsible for securing billions of dollars in state funding for Jewish day schools and other non-public schools.