Election Day is almost a month behind us, and a healthy majority of the country — even healthier in Tompkins County — has been celebrating the victory of President-Elect Barack Obama. Still, I was amazed how many Cornell students I spoke with on Nov. 4, who did not vote. In such a historical election, I cannot understand how this is possible. For those people who used the excuse "my vote doesn't count in liberal Ithaca, New York" — you were wrong. Here is why:
This year in Tompkins County, two U.S. House of Representatives seats were up for election, as well as seats in the State Senate and State Assembly. Thanks to the interesting shape of the district we are located in, several seats held close elections.
Ithaca falls mostly in District 22 but the surrounding area falls mostly in District 24 in the U.S. House. Running, as incumbent in the 22nd District was Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-N.Y.), opposed by George Phillips (R). Congressman Hinchey was reelected by a two-to-one margin. In the 24th District, first term Democrat Michael Arcuri ran a highly contested race against Republican Richard Hanna in which he won with just 52 percent of the vote. Both Congressman Hinchey and Congressman Arcuri have spoken at Cornell several times. Hinchey, whose daughter Michelle is a senior, has been instrumental in bringing federal funding to Cornell. On his last visit, the Congressman addressed the need for more research in renewable energy.
In the State Senate races, Ithaca belongs to the 53rd District, with the 51st and 54th Districts also part of Tompkins County. All three incumbent Republican State Senators were reelected. In the 51st District, Democrat Don Barber, town supervisor of Caroline, ran a grass roots campaign focusing on economic development, environmental issues, health care and education. Barber — who constantly reached out to the Cornell community throughout his campaign — was defeated by Rep. James Seward (D-N.Y.). In Ithaca's 53rd District, Rep. George Winner (R-N.Y.) was reelected and is currently working to fasten liquor license applications within the District. In the 54th District, Rep. Michael Nozzolio '73 (R-N.Y.), defeated Paloma Capanna.
At the State Assembly level, Tompkins County falls within the 125th District, where Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton (D) was reelected without opposition. When she first joined the legislature, Assemblywoman Lifton sponsored bill that would give partial compensation to areas in New York with state universities that were tax exempt, like Ithaca.
Regardless of political inclinations or the Electoral College, this year's election was an important one, whether you live in Cleveland, Ohio or Ithaca, New York. Here, the State Senate and Assembly have already played an important role in preparing for budget cuts. These are of tremendous importance to Cornell and Cornell students, who count on New York State funding for student loans, research grants, student activity funding and more. In sum, your vote counted as much as you think each dollar cut from your student loans counts.