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Canisius political science chair speaks on the importance of voting

The city elections in Buffalo scheduled for Tuesday have been about as high-profile as any city election could be. In these elections, an important demographic is college students who want to make their voices heard.

The main headline-grabber has been the mayoral election, which last June saw four-term mayor Byron Brown lose in the primary to socialist India Walton, but Brown has had a strong write-in candidacy, by which he now leads Walton by 17 points according to the latest polls.

Two democratic candidates going head-to-head is a result of the changing democratic party, according to Canisius Political Science Chair Dr. Paola Fajardo-Heyward.

“We have a mayor in Buffalo who has been mayor for many, many years and that always starts to generate change inside of a party,” Fajardo-Heyward said. “Particularly in a city such as Buffalo, these issues are going to be important when you look at the rates of poverty, you look at inequality, you look at gentrification; these are issues that are moving people and are motivating people.”

Canisius is also well-represented on the ballot as the school sees a faculty member, Dr. Kevin Hardwick, on the ballot running for Erie County comptroller as well as Chief Kim Beaty of Public Safety running for Erie County sheriff. Fajardo-Heyward is hopeful that both of them will win and that students will vote in those elections.

“I think it speaks to the quality of people we have at Canisius College. Always for my students, having Dr. Hardwick as a professor [and] as a resource, has been fascinating. You get to know directly what happens, how decisions are made; and that’s an experience that is amazing,” she said. “I’m very proud knowing that they are running and are willing to put the community first and trying to make a difference.”

Fajardo-Heyward, who immigrated to the United States in 2005 and was not a citizen or able to vote until 2015, stressed the importance of voting even when it is not a national election, because she believes that local elections have more of an impact on day-to-day life as a resident of a town or city.

“You’re talking about budgets for schools and you’re talking about the resources that are going to impact your daily life,” she said. “Voting, if it’s even a local election, matters.”

“For me, to have the right to vote is the most important right in a democracy, and it’s always important, no matter if you’re saying ‘Oh, there’s no presidential election; there’s no governor election.’ It doesn’t matter, you always want to make your voice [heard], cast your vote and hold those in power accountable.”

She believes that as important as it is for everyone to vote, she especially encourages her students and all students as a whole to do so.

“If you want to be proactive and be part of the solution, go vote,” she urged. “If you think perhaps it’s not important, it doesn’t have any impact, it does have an impact. Just the act of voting and showing those votes is telling the government that people care.”

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