Hurricane Sandy has affected the eastern US in a lot of ways—all of them bad—and there’s going to be quite a bit of confusion and rebuilding and restoring of services in the next couple weeks. It couldn’t have picked a worse time politically, as Election Day is only a week away. Presumably, it’s going to be tough for people without power, or people whose cars have been crushed by falling trees, or people who have to deal with houses and apartment buildings halfway underwater, to vote. Sandy has already halted early voting in several states, and there’s some speculation that Election Day could be pushed back. In New Jersey, one of the states hit hardest by the storm, Newark mayor Cory Booker promised to find ways for people to vote, while governor Chris Christie said he didn’t give a damn about Election Day. This raises a question: How important is voting, anyway? Does your vote matter? Should you worry about voting at a time like this? As it happens, we asked some people on the streets of New York City if it was important to vote last week, before the hurricane hit. Here’s what they said.
Adam, 38, designer: It all depends on where you are, but yes, it is important to vote.
Where wouldn’t it be important to vote?
The only reason I say that is, you know, looking realistically, living in New York, the state's going to be for Obama anyway. But I’m from Ohio. If I was voting there, it’d be super important. Up here? It’s not the end of the world. But it is an important right to exercise.
Wilson, 24, teacher: Yes, it is. As citizens, we have to do our responsibility, our part, to voice our opinion. We are the ones who are electing these representatives, and they are supposed to represent us, and they only do that if we vote for them.
What about in places like New York, where it’s basically already decided in favor of Obama? Should you just stay home?
No, I think you should still go out and vote. It’s absolutely worth your hour and a half to go find a place to cast your vote.
Molly, 17, student: It’s important to put your opinion out there and try and make a difference in who wins.
John, 17, student: I think it’s important. Very important. As much as you might feel you don’t have a say, it’s still important to be a member of the community.
Why do you feel like you don’t have a say when you vote?
Molly: I feel like one person doesn’t really make that much of a difference, but at the same time they do, because if there are a lot of one persons doing things, that’s a lot.
John: What she said.
Mattie, 22, musician: Fuck that shit. It’s not important to vote. In the end, you don’t even have the decision.
Have you ever voted?
Yeah, I have. I went to Brown medical school, and I was cleared for Harvard, so I know what I’m talking about. It’s like religion; if other people want to do it, that’s fine, I’m not going to force my beliefs on anyone else. The way I see it is that the people on top are going to do whatever. So, if you want to change society, start with a little group.
Jared, 25, musician: Yes, absolutely. We have a chance to change the future for our generation and the generations after that.
So you feel like your vote matters? One vote probably doesn’t, but if everyone thinks that way, we’re going to end up taking steps back instead of forward. So if everyone thinks their vote matters, then they’re all going to vote.
Casey, 28, math teacher: Yes, I guess I feel like I vote because there are so many people in the rest of the world that would kill—well, not kill, but would give anything for the chance to vote. And because they don’t have the chance, I feel like you should exercise your right and vote.
Changing the political future isn’t as important to you?
No. I mean, I know every vote counts, technically, but I just feel like I do it more because it’s my right as an American citizen to vote, and not everyone has that right.
Justin, 31, unemployed: Yeah, of course it’s important to vote. If you vote, at least when you think things aren’t going right in the country, you have a right to voice your opinions. Whereas, if you don’t vote, you have no right to voice your opinions on how things have gone wrong, because you haven’t made a decision on either candidate.
Do you think people that don’t want to vote should just shut up and go register?
Certainly. People died for the vote, people fought for the vote. Women didn’t have the vote for years, people of different classes didn’t have the vote for years, so I think it’s vital that people go out there and vote.
Roman, 31, performance artist: You’re not going to like this, but I believe, at this point, it’s not as important as it was. There’s too much collusion between the two parties. I just don’t think it’s a good idea to vote, at this point. I think it kind of legitimizes the two parties. I write stuff against Romney all the time, but I don’t want to vote myself, because once things don’t go as people expect, I don’t want to be one of the people that is a sucker.
You don’t vote because you don’t want to be wrong?
Yeah. I mean, I know these promises aren’t going to pan out, so when I vote, I don’t want to be one of the people who people can point at and say, “Well, you voted for him.” I’m just going to say, “No, I didn’t.”
Jan, 24, film student: It’s very important to vote, mainly because if you’re not paying attention to what’s going on today, history tends to repeat itself, so if you’re ignorant about what’s going on, it’s just going to get worse from here. Not voting just shows you don’t care about your country, and you don’t care what’s going on.
What about people that don’t think either candidate is a good choice?
In my opinion, you’re never going to be 100 percent happy with the candidate. Personally, I won’t categorize myself as a Democrat or a Republican. I base my vote on what their policies are, and who I agree with most.