Vote As If Your Life Depends On It
by Ted Miller
(Originally published in Tumbleweird August 2018)
(Originally published in Tumbleweird August 2018)
If you neglect to vote because you think your vote won’t count, you are correct. You have to vote for it to count. Yet almost two-thirds of registered voters in the Mid-Columbia didn’t even bother during the last mid-term election.
Last year, the outcome of Virginia’s 94th legislative district was decided by a single vote. Democrat Shelly Simonds was running against Republican David Yancey. Yancey was ten votes ahead after the initial count, a less than one hundredth of one percent margin. An automatic recount put Simonds ahead by just one vote. After a challenge by the Republicans, a panel of three judges ruled that a ballot with questionable markings was valid and should be counted for Yancey. That one ballot put the race at an even tie with 11,608 votes to each candidate. In accordance with Virginia law, the election was ultimately decided by a random drawing and Yancey was declared the winner (source: reuters.com).
In the Virginia case, not only was the election decided with onecontested vote, but control of the evenly divided state legislature was decided with this single race. Imagine how the democrats in that district who failed to vote felt about the outcome. Never think that your vote doesn’t make a difference.
Statistics tell us that voter turnout is overwhelmingly higher for older, more affluent whites than for any other demographic. For a variety of reasons including cynicism and barriers to voter participation, persons of color, young people, and low-income citizens are disproportionately less likely to vote (source: americaprogress.org). And yet the younger non-white demographic, particularly those in a marginalized group, are more adversely affected by regressive policies that favor corporations and the wealthy. Issues like equality, gun violence, health care, immigration, wages, and education are only addressed when we who care about those issues make our voices heard.
Following the February 14th shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, student survivors responded with political activism. They started the March For Our Lives movement, inspiring national protest marches and vigorous debate about gun violence. Gun rights advocates vilified them and gun control activists hailed them as heroes. These teenagers organized their efforts and used their unexpected fame to call for change. And unlike the responses to previous shootings, they knew the key to change was the ballot box. They began a relentless call to register young people and are working across the country to electrepresentatives who will take action to address the epidemic of gun violence in our nation. These young leaders know that the path for change begins with local elections.
We the people have the power to make change, and the way we do that is with the power of our vote.
We live in a representative democracy. The Constitution gives citizens the right to elect those that best represent them at all levels of government. In some areas of the country, voter suppression, district gerrymandering, and similar efforts to maintain politicalhold on power against the will of the people are very real. But as long as the Constitution stands, we the people have the power to ensure our own future. We have to exercise that power to make a difference.
When you vote, make sure you are an informed voter. Remember not to believe everything you see in a meme on social media. Seek out multiple sources of information. Research the candidates and how they stand on the issues important to you. Vote your values. Don’t ever think your vote isn’t important, or that it “won’t count” because you think your opinion is in the minority. That cynicism is why the demographics of our elected officials often do not reflect the demographics of our communities.
Washington makes voting easy and accessible. Registration is simple and can be done on-line in most cases. Voting is secure with paper ballots filled out at a time convenient to the voter. Ballots can be mailed (postage-free starting with this election) or placed in a local ballot box. There are relatively few barriers to voting in our state.
If this is the first time you are old enough to vote, make this the first in a lifetime of regular voting. If you are eligible to vote but aren’t registered, register now. If you are registered and haven’t yet voted in the primary, do so today. If you missed the August 7th primaryelection day, make a commitment to register and vote in the general election this November.
I believe in progressive values and I believe there are those who want to reverse the progress we’ve made on women’s rights, LGBT equality, help for the poor, tax fairness, expansion of health care for all, and legal protections for the most vulnerable in our society. I vote for the candidates and the issues that best reflect my values. I encourage you to do the same.
If you want your government to reflect you and your values, vote. Vote as if your life depends on it.
Because it does.
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