In the November 2014 election, 83 percent of NYSUT members were registered to vote; on election day in 2014, less than 56 percent of those NYSUT members who were registered actually showed up at the polls. Both of those numbers are much better than the general population, but there's no question we could do so much better.
The union's new Pledge to Vote campaign aims to increase voter turnout among NYSUT members by having them formally commit to vote in local, state and national elections.
NYSUT Political Director Melinda Person said at the Pre-RA Local and Retiree Council Presidents Conference last month that research shows when people make formal commitments to do something they are more inclined to follow through.
The goal of NYSUT's campaign — rolling out this spring in every region of the state — is to persuade 95 percent of all NYSUT members to take the pledge and to vote in November.
"Every election involves issues of interest to NYSUT members, union members in general and the communities we serve," said Andy Pallotta, NYSUT executive vice president. "With participation on this level near 100 p e r c e n t , we have the ability to make meaningful change. It's as simple as voting in your own best interest, and no one can do it for you."
Person said NYSUT members account for between 5 percent and 8 percent of the electorate in each of New York's Assembly and Senate districts.
The Pledge to Vote campaign will come to everywhere NYSUT members are employed. Leadership volunteers will distribute postcards to members, ask them to fill them out and take the pledge to vote. The pledge form will also be available online at pledge. nysut.org.
In the run up to the next election, NYSUT will contact those who signed the pledge and remind them that they promised to get to the polls.
The program will not tell people how to vote; the intention is to engage members in the political process. When it comes to the ability to determine elections, Person said, our members "make a difference."