And this is when we are at our absolute best, our most politically aware. In last year’s election, 65,680 people went to the polls in all of Albany County. Based on Census population estimates, that is a mere 27 percent of the voting age population. Places in which casting a ballot means standing in line for hours under the supervision of armed guards do better than that.
Things aren't much better elsewhere. In the 2010 election, a gubernatorial race year, about 83,000 people went to the polls in all of Saratoga County, less than half the voting-age population. Last year in all of Schenectady County, nearly 32,000 people went to the polls. That’s 35 percent of registered voters (nothing to celebrate) but just 23 percent of the voting age population. It’s almost astonishing how few people vote.
In 2008, however, more than twice as many ballots were cast in Schenectady County as in 2011. When tens of thousands of people head to the ballot box who were apparently uninterested just 12 months prior, it stands to reason it’s the big Oval Office race that is capturing everyone’s attention. One has to wonder if this sudden influx of sometimes voters pull the lever on local candidates with any inkling of their characters, positions or even the issues themselves.
If you’re one of these voters, we’d encourage you to become literate on your local political scene before this coming Tuesday — these races, after all, will likely have a much more direct impact on you and your family than who wins the White House. A good place to start is the pages of your local newspaper (like this one!). We’d also suggest the League of Women Voters’ vote411.org website, which is great for beginners who might not even know what Assembly District is theirs. You’ll find questionnaire answers from many of the candidates running in this election, too.
So there’s really no excuse left. Get informed, and get to the polls.