At Zuccotti Park, Little Faith at the Ballot Box


You would not know it was Election Day at Zuccotti Park Tuesday. There are no American flags swaying in the wind, nor are there posters declaring their support of candidates.

Few people saw value in casting ballots.

“It’s not going to come down to my opinion,” said Alec Courtnui, a baker before joining the protests who now shines shoes to make money. “I always vote for the lesser of two evils. The last time I voted was in 2008, and it was for Obama. He was handed a really hard task, and he’s doing the best he can.”

He was not alone among protestors for whom the idea of change through the elective process has lost its appeal.

“It’s not going to make a difference unless we make a third party,” said Julio Rolon, who flew from his native Puerto Rico to New York to take part in the occupation. “America colonizes countries like El Salvador with the dollar, and I’m here to fight against colonization, especially the U.S. imperialism. As Puerto Ricans, we can’t vote for the U.S. presidential elections but the president can come to Puerto Rico and do his fundraising there. The voting booth is the coffin for the elections.”

At Zuccotti Park, there are no political posters. Instead there are rainbow flags with peace signs. People hold large pieces of cardboard covered with their life stories. The boards also list their needs and demands. “Spanish is going to be the first language of this country in a few years,” Rolon told a passing woman.

Still, a few of the protestors did think voting matters.

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“It usually does. Our country was founded on this notion,” said Karen Huffman, a resident of East Village.  She is knitting scarves for her fellow protestors. “I’m a very informed voter and I’ve worked for the voting board as well. The problem is that most people are watching Fox News and reality TV and so they’re not getting much news. There was nothing about Election Day in the paper today. It was all about Kim Kardashian, Hermain Cain, and Michael Jackson.” Huffman voted last November. “I may still vote tonight though,” she said.

Anoush, a Manhattan based writer who refuses to give her last name, had just voted and wanted to keep her choices to herself. “I think it’s very important to vote,” she said. “I think young people should be asked to vote and in return they should get free concert tickets for Beyonce after that, because every vote can make a difference,” she said.

Joey McMinnin, of Staten Island, also thinks it is necessary to vote. “I’m still going to exercise my right to vote,” he said. “However, I’m mostly concerned with environmental issues and not really political ones. I’ve always voted.”

Still, most people interviewed at the park saw little benefit in casting a ballot.

“I think most elections are not true democracy and there’s not much choice,” said Jen Waller.

Some admitted they have not voted in years, having lost their faith in government. “I don’t vote anymore and I can’t tell you the last time I voted,” said Patrick Cooper with a laugh. Even those who cannot vote due to their legal status do not think they are missing out on much.

“Everything is mobbed by the 1% and it’s their machine,” said Recai Iskander, a Turk who has been a permanent resident in the city for 11 years. “Even if I could, I wouldn’t vote.”

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