What a year, right? Stony Brook usually feels like a politics-free campus. Of course we have political parties and our liberal and conservative moments, but I used to be able to go weeks without getting into a political debate. No more.
This year has been politically frightening. Everyone seems tense about the presidency, about national politics and about state politics. Even local government feels like it is fraught with corruption and extremism. This week, Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas J. Spota resigned after being federally indicted for obstructing a federal investigation of former police chief James Burke. Two weeks ago, Newsday published a piece stating that 100 current and former Nassau officeholders, appointees, and political club leaders had relatives in government jobs.
Nov. 7 is Election Day. It behooves all of us to vote. Stony Brook University had a 2015 population of 9,101 and is considered to be a census-dedicated place. According to Stony Brook University’s facts and rankings page for Fall 2017, there are 25,989 students enrolled, 10,204 of whom live on campus. Those numbers give us political power.
During the 2016 presidential election, 677,167 out of the possible 954,622 votes in Suffolk County were cast. That’s about a 71 percent turnout. About 36 percent of eligible voters voted during the 2014 general election for governor and lieutenant governor, comptroller and attorney general. Only about 17 percent voted during the 2015 general election for the supreme court justice of the 10th judicial district.
With our numbers, we can make real differences in political outcomes. We can leverage this power to get local government to work for us. In Inwood, Long Island, an influx of politically active families moving in garnered respect within the last few years for the community from the district and Nassau County government. Homeowners even had dinners with political candidates to discuss community concerns.
Both the Stony Brook College Republicans and the Stony Brook College Democrats have held “Meet the Candidates” nights. Ask your district and county candidates, what are they going to do to help students here at Stony Brook?
Don’t stop at the local candidates. This year, New York state is voting on holding a Constitutional Convention. Every 20 years, New Yorkers vote on whether or not to open the state constitution. If it is opened, everything in the 50,000 word document is on the table to be changed or deleted. New laws can be added. The last time a Constitutional Convention took place in New York was in 1967 – and the changes were rejected by voters.
In order to vote on the Constitutional Convention, New Yorkers must turn their ballots over and check the box beside “Yes” or “No” to answer the question, “Shall there be a convention to revise the Constitution and amend the same?” If no vote is recorded, it won’t count either way (there have been social media posts claiming that not voting will result in a “Yes” counted. This is incorrect).
On campus, students will be able to vote at the Student Activities Center. It’s worth the wait. Let’s create change at Stony Brook through government.