EDITORIAL: Uber, Lyft promoting civic engagement

Underserved communities need help overcoming voting barriers

In November, Republican Bob Hugin will challenge Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) for his office, and all 12 of the House seats will be on the ballot. All 12 seats being open means that, depending on who gets out and votes, there could be some important changes to the state’s legislature. On the ballot, New Jersey voters will be asked about their approval of things like protecting students from lead exposure, expanding county and vocational college programs and the state borrowing $500 million to ramp up security in public schools. Yesterday was the last day to register to vote in the New Jersey midterm elections, but being registered to vote is only half the battle — actually getting to the polls is an entirely different story. 

According to the Pew Research Center, 3 percent of people who did not vote in 2016 but were registered to do so said that transportation issues were the reason they did not vote. An additional 14 percent said they did not vote because of inconvenient hours or polling places, as well as trouble with conflicting schedules. Interestingly, the demographics of people who are likely to be nonvoters are very different from their likely-to-vote counterparts, and the differences lie mostly in level of income and race. 

Approximately 43 percent of people generally not likely to vote are Hispanic, African American or other racial and ethnic minorities, which is around double that of the percentage among people who are likely to vote. Additionally, more than half of nonvoters, as opposed to 72 percent of their voting counterparts, have not attended college. Further, approximately 46 percent of nonvoters have an income of less than $30,000 per year, compared to 19 percent of people who are likely to vote. If we consider voting to be an expression of one's civic voice, what these statistics show is that low income and minority communities are less likely to use theirs. But, as previously mentioned, this lack of voting is mostly not a matter of choice, but rather a matter of having to face obstacles like transportation and time off from work to actually get to the polls.

But, prominent rideshare companies Uber and Lyft are offering free and discounted rides to people who want to vote on Nov. 6. They are working together with organizations that civic engagement — Uber partnering with Vote.org, Turbo Vote and Nonprofit Vote, among others, and Lyft partnering with Vote Latino, the National Federation of the Blind and Urban League affiliates — both with the aim of helping members of underserved communities get to the polls and engage their voice. 

In some cases, Rutgers also offers free shuttles to voting stations. For example, to get to the station in North Brunswick last November, a free shuttle from the Biel Road bus stop was offered. This was likely a huge help to a number of students, but it seems the University can still do more in this realm. Making more free shuttles available and widely known would undoubtedly help students carry out civic engagement, in addition to going easy on class attendance for voting day so that students can more reasonably find time to hit the polls. 

Civic engagement like voting is extremely important in a political system like ours, and it is necessary for underserved communities to get to the voting stations and vote in their own interests. This is why what Uber and Lyft are doing is so important, and hopefully in the future we will see an expansion of ideas like theirs to help people overcome obstacles that keep them from being civically engaged. 


The Daily Targum's editorials represent the views of the majority of the 150th editorial board. Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.

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