INDEPENDENT LIVING:  Why your vote really does matter

Sarah K. Lanzo, Independent Living

October 25, 2019


Something exciting is happening for the first time in the history of New York state and, although it will affect 100% of our citizens, only perhaps one-third of them will even care. “What’s that?," you ask?

It's just a week and a half until the official Election Day, Nov. 5, and, this year, people who are unable to make it to their polling place on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November have 10 days, from Oct. 26 to Nov. 3, for early voting! If this works better for your schedule, the two sites in Niagara County are St. John De LaSalle Center in Niagara Falls and Wrights Corners Volunteer Fire Company in north Lockport.

Now, if you are a traditionalist like me and still like to vote on that special Tuesday, just think about the millions of dollars Niagara County spends on programs for people with disabilities that will be decided by your elected leaders this coming year. Excited about voting, yet?

Hmph, I was afraid of that. I can imagine the following conversation with you on your constitutional right to vote.

Me: "I know that you're a really-involved-in-the-community kind of person. Guess you have Tuesday November 5th marked in a bold font on your electronic calendar, right?

You: "Um, what for? Is that your birthday, or —?"

Me: "No, no, it's Election Day!"

You: "Hmm, I know voting for President isn't until next year, because they keep talking about it. So, who's up this time? Governor? Attorney General?"

Me: "No, that was last year."

You: "Uh, U.S. Senator, Representative?"

Me: "Ah, no —"

You: "Err, State Senator, Assembly Member?"

Me: "Well, sorry …"

You: "Then just for whom would I be voting?" (I notice that you really have excellent grammar.)

Me, enthusiastically: "County clerks and legislators, some city mayors, treasurers, councilmen or aldermen, town supervisors, clerks, highway superintendents … Say, why the funny expression? "

You: "What’s the big deal? Why give me grief about going to vote for a bunch of local county legislators, clerks and councilmen? You can’t be serious that this election matters?!"

Me: "Very much so! Most people in high public office today started out in a local role and worked their way up to the important state or federal positions they now occupy. If you learn about those running for the small jobs, and support the ones whose programs, ideals and character you respect, you're positioning them to advance against those who are less suitable to assume the public trust. Your vote does count! Each year you hear about some race that was ultimately decided by a handful of votes — well, that is, once the recount, that almost always follows close race results, is done."

You: "Huh! I've never really thought of it that way before."

Me: "Great! Since you are reading this column and are interested in the services that people with disabilities receive in our county today, you now have 10 days to pick the best day and time to vote. With the numerous local positions on the block, remember that today's alderwoman may be tomorrow's U.S. Senator."

This is especially the case for us voters with disabilities! If we want our elected leaders to take our issues seriously, we have to be very visibly involved — preferably, in person, at a polling place, all of which now have accessible ballot marking devices that let you cast your votes independently and privately.

Please remember: your informed vote today provides direction to those who seek to ascend the political ladder. They will decide who has the right to live in our neighborhoods, work in our communities, and engage equally in our society. So, get out and vote for those worthy individuals who think enough of your government to put their future in your hands.


Sarah K. Lanzo is the director of Independent Living of Niagara County, a member of the Western New York Independent Living Inc. family of agencies that serve individuals with disabilities. For more information, call 284-4131, extension 200.