Why Your Vote Matters — A Conversation with Suraj Patel

“Flying your flag” is really important to us at Knotel, and a huge part of flying your flag is casting your ballot. Voting is your civic duty, sure; but also it’s also a tangible way to make your voice heard and put your opinions and ideas into action. And, yes, it does matter. Activist, organizer, educator, and former Democratic candidate for New York’s 12th Congressional District Suraj Patel came to our HQ to explain why.

While ultimately unable to unseat 25-year incumbent Carolyn Maloney in the Democratic primary, Suraj nevertheless managed to inspire young voters and increase their participation in the primary by 797%. By activating a younger generation of voters, he garnered a better-than-expected 42% of overall votes.

“Our [campaign] thesis was this: change who votes, and you will change the outcome,” said Suraj in a Q&A with Knotel general counsel Amit Khanna. “You don’t vote because you think your vote doesn’t matter, but it does,” he added.

Oftentimes even more so in primaries. Suraj’s race, for example — a Congressional district within a Democratic city in a blue state — was the one meaningful opportunity for many NYC voters to say who would represent them at the national level. This was especially significant in a district that includes both the wealthiest neighborhood and the largest public housing project in the country; the electorate can be misrepresented based on who turns out to vote in the primaries. “It’s on us to make competitive elections happen,” said Suraj.

It also matters at the grassroots level, as a good field program can have 3-6% impact on election turnout, which can be determinative of who wins. This kind of organization is key to Suraj’s ethos that governing is not a right, but a privilege earned through hard work and sacrifice. It doesn’t matter how much better a candidate’s ideas are, he said, if they’re not also organizing and committed to doing what it takes to win. So, while it might seem low stakes and remote to make phone calls, send texts, and knock on doors, it’s not: “[y]ou have to earn the right to govern,” says Suraj.

In a recent op-ed for <em>Crain’s New York Business</em>, Suraj outlined what the private sector can do to increase voter participation when politicians won’t, including participating in non-partisan initiatives like Time to Vote. The number one reason people cite for not voting is not having time off, which is especially true for working-class voters, voters of color, and younger voters. Time to Vote, which Knotel is proud to participate in, encourages companies to give a flexible workday to employees who wish to vote and participate in get-out-the-vote activities.

The bottom line: voting is you flying your flag. It’s your voice. It matters. We hope to see you at the polls today!