By: Aidan McHugh
As Election Day approaches, SUNY Purchase and the rest of New York get ready to go to the polls.
Purchase students will be taking part in local elections for the town of Harrison. Students can vote for mayor, two council members, the town clerk, the town justice, in addition to voting for county legislature seats.
While the 2019 elections may not seem all that important, compared to the 2018 midterm elections or the upcoming 2020 presidential race, these local elections can have a major impact on state politics, according to James Accordino, head of the Purchase chapter of the New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG).
“No matter what city or town in New York you live in, there is most likely something super important happening,” said Accordino, adding that in many of the local elections, a politician can win by a margin as thin as 10 votes.
Moreover, he noted that these local politicians have a direct impact on voters’ day to day lives, as they can put their policies into law very quickly. While NYPIRG does push for policies like consumer protection, addressing climate change, and funding for higher education, when it comes to the elections themselves, NYPIRG is officially non-partisan.
“In terms of the elections, we’re not endorsing candidates in particular, but we are encouraging people to make sure they are doing their due diligence and researching these potential-officials in order to make sure their views are lining up with that of you,” said Accordino.
When asked about the idea of voter apathy among younger generations, Accordino dismissed that notion. He argued that younger voters have been turning out at greater rates in on-year and off-year elections, specifically citing the spike in voter turnout from the 2014 to 2018 elections-2018 had the highest voter turnout in four decades at 53 percent, 2014 the lowest at 41.9 percent.
Some students on campus are preparing to vote for the first time, like Brian Saccone, a freshmen communications major. Saccone did not have a high opinion on either of the two main parties.
“I’m an independent voter. Parties don’t get to me, I vote on whoever I like,” said Saccone adding that he feels political parties tend to more divide people more than unite them. In particular, he expressed frustration that the Democratic Party was focusing on impeachment at the expense of other issues.
Meanwhile, other Purchase students have experience in voting already. Britney Ditocco, a senior studio composition and history major, has voted in three previous elections, and she has an unusual way of preparing for them.
“I usually wait until the week of [the election], and I look up everyone and everything that I’m voting on,” said Ditocco, though she noted that environmental protection and education are the issues she’s most concerned about at the moment. Ditocco said that her interest in politics began as she got older and government policy began to affect her life directly, compared to when she was "insulated" from the effects of politics as a child.
On the topic of voter apathy, she felt that potential voters feel into one of two extremes: either “very into it” or completely apathetic. She herself, however, was adamant on exercising her right to vote
“I always want to vote because I feel like you can’t complain about the outcome of an election if you were eligible to vote and didn’t vote,” said Ditocco.