The midterm represents a pivotal time in New York state politics. There are four executive offices that will be on the ballot: governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, and comptroller. It is not my goal to talk about who you should vote for or who you shouldn’t. The public has been bombarded enough with that. Rather than focus on who to vote for, I will discuss how to vote. 

Voting is a multi-tiered process. Before looking at a politician or ballot, the voter should do an assessment of what the needs and priorities of his/her family, community, and personal needs are. This should be done by understanding the economy, education, housing, and businesses in the community that you live in. You must determine if the politician is meeting those needs that are relevant to you, your family, and your community. You will hear statements from candidates that will include “I promise,” “I guarantee,” or the famous “read my lips.” 

Personally, I respect politicians that say, “I will support,” or “I will work hard,” or “I will do my best.” That is more realistic than promises that cannot be kept. The inability to keep a campaign promise can depend on unknown entities, such as other elected officials that can impact a politician’s platform, which is at the heart of bipartisan gridlock. This happens when a governing body such as a governor does not belong to the same party as the mayor, and they have different agendas; as a result, legislation comes to a halt. Other roadblocks that affect a politician’s ability to keep campaign promises are changing budgets, special interest groups, changes of public opinion, changes in social norms, or just, they said what they had to say to get elected. Understand who and what you are voting for. So, the next time a politician makes a promise, look at the governing body that can influence that promise. Do not think in terms of who is bad or good but who represents the needs of your community. There are various websites that can help you learn about the politicians and the process. I have found these sites to be helpful:

https://ballotpedia.org/New_York_state_executive_official_elections,_2022

https://www.elections.ny.gov/

https://www.vote.org/

The second part of the process, and it is the shortest, is voting. I know some people who are guilty of skipping the first part and going straight to the ballot, when this happens, they told me that they found themselves just selecting the person whose party they identified with or the one whose name they heard the most in the media, or even the way their name sounds. A large group of people fall into this section which is why it is hard to remove an incumbent from office: they’re familiar. 

After the vote is the most important part. Now it is time to hold your elected officials accountable. All too often we think our job is done when we leave the voting booth. There is a big push to vote for your candidate. There is a push to just vote in general, but rarely do we hear ads that challenge you to hold your politicians accountable. Remember what your needs are and remember what the politician said they would produce. Reach out to them, write letters. See how accessible they are. They will knock on your doors and greet you at the subway station to solicit your vote, but do they show the same energy to see if your needs are being met?   

So why are these midterm elections so important? We have a sitting mayor that is challenged with many issues and a governor that is up for election. This election outcome can impact the success of city and local politics. The office of comptroller is also up for election. The comptroller is a powerful position in politics. According to NYC.GOV:

“The Comptroller’s responsibilities include:

  • Conducting performance and financial audits of all City agencies;
  • Serving as a fiduciary to the City’s five public pension funds totaling approximately $250 billion in assets, as of July 2022;
  • Providing comprehensive oversight of the City’s budget and fiscal condition;
  • Reviewing City contracts for integrity, accountability and fiscal compliance;
  • Resolving claims both on behalf of and against the City;
  • Ensuring transparency and accountability in setting prevailing wage and vigorously enforcing prevailing wage and living wage laws; and
  • Promoting policies that enhance City government’s commitment to efficiency, integrity and performance for all New Yorkers.”

This role can significantly impact how monies are spent to address homelessness, crime, employment, education etc. 

The attorney general’s role according to https://ballotpedia.org/Attorney_General_of_New_York:  

“The Attorney General of New York is the state’s chief legal officer and heads the New York State Department of Law. According to the office’s official website, the attorney general ‘not only advises the Executive branch of State government, but also defends actions and proceedings on behalf of the State.’ The attorney general is elected in the midterm elections and serves four-year terms.” The influence this office holds is significant in that it is supposed to be the voice of the people and push the legislation and agendas that impact our communities. 

When we vote, we are not just voting for one person or office, we are also deciding how much our candidate will be supported from the other offices that are up for election. In this sense, it’s like a game of chess. We should think in terms of multiple moves ahead.  

I share this information to ensure that as citizens of New York City and State we push for a better quality of life and understand that voting is more than pulling a lever; it’s an investment in our future. So yes, vote, but be an informed voter who follows through—then perhaps we can change the world one vote at a time.  

Dr. Clarence Williams Jr. is a retired assistant superintendent in the New York city public school system. He holds a doctorate in educational leadership, a master’s in education administration, and a master’s in multicultural education. Williams Jr. has a K-12 license in special education and educational leadership, has worked as an educator and leader in the public school system for over 30 years and is an assistant professor.

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