Thursday, January 7, 2016

Voting Is About More Than Choosing The Next President

For several years I have been involved with voter registration activities. One year I even participated in polling observation to record when people were turned away from the polls or given previsionary ballots.

It is always interesting to talk to people about voting and voter registration. As soon as the subject comes up, people immediately connect it to the presidential election. The most frequent responses I have heard are, "I do not support any of the presidential candidates, so I do not plan to vote;" "I need to register so I can vote for X presidential candidate;" "The Electoral College chooses the president, so my vote does not count;" "I oppose the government funding for foreign countries, so I do not plan to vote."  

It is amazing to me that people so narrowly define voting.

Other excuses I hear are that people are not "educated" or "informed" enough to make a decision. That really is just an excuse. Everything can be googled for a multitude of information on which you can base your opinion. Many states, including Arizona, have mail-in ballots, so you have all the personal time you need to figure out everything in your own home instead of standing in the voting booth.

I have often told people there is no rule that you have to fill in every circle. If there is an office or referendum or initiative you do not want to vote for at all, you can leave it blank.

It also amazes me that people take this right, this privilege, so lightly. 

People actually died for this right - actually died to give this right to us. People in some countries are still denied this right - and some are still dying trying to get it.

But here we are acting like participating in "politics" by being informed at some level, and participating in voting, is somehow a "dirty" activity. It reminds me of the old British system where the elite class looked down on participating in commerce (business or employment) as "dirty" or beneath them. 

Has politics become dirty? Yes. Has politics become a profession geared toward greed and personal gain rather than for the best interest of the constituents or even the country? Yes. Are politicians less like statesmen and more like actors on a stage reading scripts or throwing out "one-liners" for attention? Yes

But despite all that, politicians still make decisions that directly affect our lives and the lives of our families. There is no getting around that - and not being engaged in the process does not protect you or your family from the decisions of the politicians. 

Politicians have been able to defund our schools and mental healthcare system, attack minority (particularly women's) rights, and negatively affect our finances through backroom deals and shady economics ONLY because so many people have disengaged from the entire socio-political process.

Politicians have been able to pass irresponsible laws, even somewhat "secret" laws, because the electorate (us) rarely pays attention. 

Politicians have been able to make inflammatory statements, racist statements, sexist statements, and display the most un-family-values-like behaviors because the electorate (us) neither bother to listen to what politicians say nor show up to the polls to vote them out.

The government and politicians are accountable - to us - but only if we show up.

If you do not like it, you have to participate, with your hands, to change it. It is your responsibility as a citizen, as a parent, as a member of society to at least try to change things that are wrong - or even confirm the things that are right. 

The presidential election only happens every four years, but there are congressional elections every two years, and local elections sometimes more often. 

The point is, there are many things on a ballot to vote on - and the local boxes have the most immediate effect on you, your family, your finances, your neighborhood, your city, your county, your state, and very explicitly your way of life.

Not voting really is a "yes" vote for the winner - so not participating is also participating, whether you like it or not.

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