My grandmother was a teenager when she came from Russia to the United States in the early 1900s, before women could vote. Family lore has it that she marched for suffrage.
As a woman and her granddaughter, when I go to the polls each Election Day I think of her joining protests in her new hometown of Boston.
As a Jew, when I go to the polls each Election Day I think of Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner, who along with James Chaney were killed in 1964 for their voter registration and civil rights work.
I can’t not vote, but there are people who feel differently.
In the 2016 general election, about 25% of registered voters countywide failed to cast ballots, according to the Monroe County Board of Elections. In the city, about 33% of voters sat out. Slightly more men than women took a pass, and voters ages 18 to 24 were least likely to show up.
In the 2018 Democratic primary, which in the city which basically is the election, about 75% of voters apparently had something else to do between noon and 9 p.m. that day, according to preliminary data from the Board of Elections. Overall in the county, about the same percentage stayed away. In Republican primaries, which were held in four towns, about 90 percent of people didn’t show up.
“If you’re not happy with your government in January, blame yourself in November,” a voting rights advocate once told me.
You may have many reasons for not voting. Inconvenience shouldn’t be one of them, and this year it’s going to be hard to make that argument.
New York for the first time has early voting, which starts Oct. 26 and runs through Nov. 3.
The Monroe County Board of Elections will staff seven polling places, although more may be added based on demand. The early voting polls will be open at various hours.
The locations for early voting:
- Greece Town Hall, 3 Vince Tofany Blvd.;
- Ogden Town Hall, 269 Ogden Center Road, Spencerport;
- MCC Downtown Campus, 321 State Street;
- Penfield Town Hall, 3100 Atlantic Ave.;
- Marketplace Mall, North Entrance, Room 530, 1 Miracle Mile Drive;
- SUNY Empire State College, 680 Westfall Road; and
- Ridge Culver Plaza (Formerly Fallas’s Department Store), 2255 East Ridge Road.
The times for each site:
- 9 a.m. to 2 p.m, Oct. 26;
- 1 to 6 p.m., Oct. 27;
- 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Oct. 28;
- Noon to 8 p.m., Oct. 29;
- Noon to 8 p.m., Oct. 30;
- 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., Oct. 31;
- 7 a.m. to 3 p.m,. Nov. 1;
- 1 p.m. to 6 p.m., Nov. 2; and
- 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., Nov. 3.
Unlike on Election Day, when voters are assigned a polling place, a registered voter can go to any early voting location. However, if you vote early, you can’t vote again, either at another early voting location or at your regular polling place. The Board of Elections will be using a secure database to track ballots.
Even last-minute emergencies shouldn’t keep any registered voter from exercising their constitutional right. In 2016, when my companion became gravely ill a few days before the election and I feared I wouldn’t be able to get to the polls, I went to the Board of Elections on the off chance I could get an absentee ballot even though I hadn’t applied for one. No problem, I was told and given a ballot.
Even on Election Day, the board can handle a crisis that someone might think would keep them from voting.
The right to vote is so dear to some that they eagerly await the opportunity.
In 2016, a 97-year-old woman who lived in a nursing home called the board to find out when her ballot would be mailed to her. She was told it had just gone out, but if she didn’t get it, to call and someone would make sure it was delivered.
A few days later, the woman called back in gratitude and in tears, saying it had been her dream and her mother’s before her to be able to vote for a woman for president. She couldn’t have known the outcome of the election. But casting her ballot was as much a vote for the process as the outcome.
“I will continue to carry in my soul and in my heart that it’s on each of us to make that difference,” my voting rights friend said. “Someday, there will be a child who says, ‘Thank you for making a difference.’ ”
For more on early voting, go to the Monroe County Board of Elections.