Today is National Voter Registration Day. Everyone from NYCHA and Rock the Vote to Black and Engaged and Doritos is working to get people registered, especially those aged 18-35, known as millennials. Even though there are more of us than any other generational group, including baby boomers, we are the least likely to vote. In the 2012 presidential election, we had the lowest voter turnout of any age group. Only 46 percent of us voted, compared to 72 percent of people age 70 and older. That basically means that older people wield greater influence on our futures than we do.
Every single vote, and every single voter, is important. In the 2008 election, when Barack Obama ran for president, more African American and non-white Hispanic citizens voted than ever before recorded. President Obama promised change, and millions of new voters turned out to endorse his vision. Those votes carried him to victory, and true to his word, life has improved for millions of middle- and low-income Americans. More people have health insurance than ever before, particularly more young people. Median household income is rising among all income groups. The economy has added three million new jobs, and over 3.5 million people have moved up and out of poverty. Everyone is benefiting, not just millionaires.
These changes are huge, but we know they can go much further. We also know that they can be easily undone by a president who does not support our needs. And we aren’t just voting for our president — candidates elected at the state and local levels this November will also influence the issues that matter to us: affordable housing, jobs, education, crime prevention, safety and security, community development and integration, public transportation, and cultural diversity.
As NYCHA residents, our votes are especially important. In this election year, the stakes for public housing residents are high – they include the future of federal funding and state funding for repairs and improvements, and investment in jobs training and development. But as a whole community, our voting power is immense. We live in almost every neighborhood and every borough. We are police officers, librarians, healthcare providers, educators, social workers, firefighters, restaurant staff, community organizers, nurses, friends, and neighbors. One in every 12 New York City residents lives in NYCHA housing — more than 400,000 strong. That is a significant voting bloc, especially in local elections, where just a few hundred votes can alter the outcome.
If you’re not already registered, do it today! Visit any National Voter Registration Day event happening throughout the five boroughs, or visit http://on.nyc.gov/nychavotes to register online. To vote in this election, you must be a U.S. citizen, a New York City resident for at least 30 days, 18 years old on or before Election Day, and you must have registered to vote by October 14. If English is not your primary language, New York City has added voter registration forms for six new languages — Albanian, Greek, Italian, Polish, Tagalog, and Yiddish; forms are already available in English, Spanish, Chinese, Korean, Bangla, Russian, Urdu, Haitian Creole, French, and Arabic.
Regardless of the outcome, this year’s election will change the course of our lives. Make sure your voice is heard.
Ritchie Torres is a Democratic member of the New York City Council representing the 15th district in the Bronx. Diatre Padilla is a member of the board of the Fund for Public Housing and a NYCHA resident.