By Josh Pruzansky
Originally published in The Jewish Link of Bergen County, October 31, 2013
On Tuesday, November 5th, the New Jersey Jewish community will have an opportunity to show its strength to elected officials and political parties around the state. On that day, every state office from the governor through the State Legislature is up for grabs. On that day, we have the ability to do something that is granted to every citizen in New Jersey, but only four out of ten actually do so—vote.
I have no idea why 60 percent of eligible voters decide not to have a say as to who will represent them in matters that cost them tens of thousands of dollars through income and property taxes.
What is amazing to me is that the Jewish community doesn’t fare much better than the general population. For example, in the recent special election for U.S. Senate, the statewide turnout was 24 percent, the lowest turnout for a statewide election in the history of New Jersey. Contrast that turnout to two communities with a significant Orthodox population: In the Teaneck Orthodox election districts, the turnout was 32 percent; in Passaic, the turnout was 22 percent.
On one hand, we can congratulate Teaneck for its “strong showing.” But is an 8 percent higher turnout than the general population something to cheer about? A 32 percent turnout means that more than two-thirds of our community didn’t bother to vote for one of our two representatives in the U.S. Senate—this in a time of budget cuts that can possibly affect foreign aid to Israel, no less.
Can we expect to have our voices heard in Trenton if we show up to the polls in similar numbers on November 5th? How can we expect our legislators to respond to our community’s needs and concerns if we don’t come out and vote with our true numbers?
Two of the very few competitive races taking place on the legislative level are in communities with significant Orthodox populations: District 18, which includes East Brunswick, Edison and Highland Park, and District 38 which includes Bergenfield, Fair Lawn and Paramus. Imagine the impact our community can have on the election if every eligible voter came out to vote.
Legislators and their staff meticulously track where votes come from. They campaign in those areas and consider the issues of their constituents who show up at the polls. While the OU, as a non-profit organization, does not endorse any candidate, we do urge you to vote. Regardless of how you cast your ballot, every vote gives our community a voice.
Please do your homework and see which candidate supports issues of interest to you. Invest a few minutes researching the person you will decide to support. Voting is truly a privilege we enjoy in this Malchut Shel Chesed and a privilege many of our forebears wish they had.
This election is your chance to make your voice heard and allow our community to shine forth as many others don’t. The opportunity to make this statement in New Jersey won’t happen again for another four years. For the sake of our families and our children please make every effort to vote on November 5th. This is one election where we can’t afford to stay home.