After You Vote
by Ted Miller
(published in Tumbleweird November 2020)
You already know how important it is to vote. You know that local elections can have a greater impact on your daily life, so you got to know your local candidates. You’ve researched the incumbents’ records and you’ve listened to the challengers to understand how they will approach the job differently. You’ve done your homework and you are ready to cast your ballot.
If you live in Washington (or one of several other vote-by-mail states), you look forward to receiving your ballot. You know the details of how to fill it out, the requirements to use the inner sleeve and to sign the outer envelope the same way it appears on your registration, and you know where the nearest drop box is located (dropping it in a mailbox a week early is fine, but putting it in a drop box is better). You know how to track your ballot’s receipt and acceptance at votewa.gov.
You’ve done your civic duty and now you can sit back and let your elected officials change the world for you, right?
Our elected officials work for us. And as with any job, feedback on their job performance should be frequent, constructive, and direct. Pay attention to what happens in board and council meetings, know the issues and decisions that are being made, and call, write, or email your elected officials to let them know what is important to you. It may sometimes feel like your voice is lost in the noise, but every voter counts and elected officials really do pay attention to what their constituents are most vocal about.
And as important as local politics are to us, issues at the state and national level also require our involvement. Taking to the streets in peaceful protest makes a difference. After a summer of national (and international) protests demanding justice for too many Black lives unjustly taken by a police system that kills more people by far than any other nation, local and state governments across the country are enacting reforms. (There is a lot more to be done, but the debate about whether to defund or reform the police is the subject of another column).
We live in a system that makes it easier for those in power to hold on to that power. But the people still have a voice. Our voices still make a difference. And when we raise our voices together to demand a more perfect union, to demand true justice and equality for all our citizens, we bend that arc ever so slightly towards a better tomorrow.
I believe in this country. And I know we can do better, together.
Vote, engage, and hold our elected officials accountable. The future of our community and our nation depends on it.