I was struggling with whether or not to use today’s letter “V” to broach the subject of Voting. Elections or anything remotely in the political arena puts me over the edge. It’s definitely an area that I tend to “self-censor” for the benefit of those around me. I noticed a couple of folks did use the word for the AtoZ challenge and so having participated in a rather animated meeting the other night; I decided to jump in and talk about Voting.
Full disclosure – sometimes I want to shake people who show such apathy towards the election process. I can’t wrap my head around it. It’s sad to me that people don’t realize what a privilege it is to live in a country where each citizen is entitled to one vote – to have a say in how the country is run and how funds are dispersed for services. Voting does matter!
Originally it was only white, male landowners who were able to vote on the laws of the land. Through centuries of strife and struggles women, Native Americans, former slaves and other foreign-born were granted the all rights of citizenship, including the right to vote. This privilege was not handed to us but earned with blood, sweat, and tears -literally. If we the people don’t use our power to have a voice, the elected officials can take it upon themselves to make decisions based on what they think is the best interest of their constituents. We have seen referendums and laws shot down or put away because there hasn’t been enough interest from the general public. We have seen others put in place before anyone could appreciate the detrimental impact on the nation.
Don’t get me wrong; I get it. I happen to like this stuff, and yet I too get tired of the rhetoric. I like the research, the arguments, and hearing the candidates’ plans to make things better. I like studying the ins and outs of new proposals. I don’t listen to just one side. To know my choices, I research both viewpoints as much as can. I have voted for a candidate based on past performance regardless of party affiliation. I have become quite active and passionate about some issues, but there are times when even I’ve had enough and want it over. I think in our era of social media and cable networks, all the input can be overwhelming.
What I hear most from people is that it doesn’t matter because “they” are all the same. “They” are just out for their self-interests, out for the money. Despite what we have seen recently, I can tell you “they” are not all the same. Some have sought office with genuine intention to serve rightfully but then lose their vision fighting the uphill battle caught up in the bureaucracy. I have also seen men and women in office fight for their constituents as if they were fighting for their own family members. I do believe we play a role in not letting our representatives get complacent or stagnant. They need our feedback, our letters, our phone calls and our attendance at town meetings to help them have the pulse on what is going on back home.
I can sit here and tell you that one party is better than another but I ask you instead to love your country enough to take a stand for democracy and vote. Be responsible. I can’t stress enough to look beyond the headlines and the talking points in political ads. Knowledge takes away the fear factor. Don’t just “share” trash on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. Research what you are reposting – especially if it sounds absurd or preposterous –even if it is sympathetic to your beliefs. Let’s not have a repeat of false information spread throughout the web as we’ve had in recent years. There are plenty of sites where you can do a quick fact check. Here are a few to get you started: Fact Checker, Politifact, Snopes, The Sunlight Foundation. There are others but these have been widely recognized to use neutral language to prevent even an appearance of bias.
In closing, I ask you to check your local voting lists. Make sure you are still on the list, and all your vital information is current. Maybe you were dropped for not voting. If you need to register, you can do it online at https://www.usa.gov/register-to-vote.
Know your candidates and ballot issues. If you can’t make a meeting with candidates, go to their website to get the details of their platform. If they have been in public service before, you can research their voting record at such sites as https://votesmart.org/; https://www.headcount.org/issues-and-candidates/; https://www.usa.gov/voter-research.
There will be plenty of information online and in handouts all over your city as we get closer to November.
Don’t take for granted what our service men and women have fought for around the world. Don’t just wave your flag on Memorial Day or the Fourth of July – make it count in November. We are part of an already great nation but WE THE PEOPLE need to step-it-up. We can do this!