President Obama has been heard to say at rallies lately (see here for a recent one in Cincinnati), "Don't boo, vote!" Pretty simple, right? If you said yes, then you may not be in Ohio.
Our own Teleange Thomas wrote a great primer on what you need to know to vote in "The Basics of Voting" just a few days ago. Please read it, share it, tweet it, print it out and hand it to people, read it to then or go with them if you have to. But if there is one intervention you can do with people in the next 37 days, please let it be about voting.
Working at a place with the word "civic" in it pretty much guarantees that I put a high value on voting. Being in elected office amplifies it for me, as opposed to dulling it for some, given how depressing the candidates and the governing can seem at times - check out today's column by Frank Bruni on the damage he sees being done to the pool of potential candidates for higher office (hattip to Jeff Hess). But as with so many other decision-making processes, if you are not at the table, you will be on the menu. If you aren't helping solve problems, you are the problem. If you remain silent, you allow acquiescence to be assigned to you as your position.
I am so radical about voting that I don't even have a problem with mandatory (also called compulsory) voting. This isn't new for me and I'm familiar with the arguments about why, in a so-called free society, we wouldn't mandate voting. But we incentivize so many other activities with rewards and punishments. Why not voting and why not to the extent that we could actually get national voter turnout rates closer to at least 75% (look at this history of voter turnout rates in presidential elections - even 2008 was not even 58%!).
Why do I think it's so critical to cast a vote? Because that is what I was taught and that is what I still believe: so long as we are all subject to the laws of this country, so long as we still provide revenue to this country in order to have this country provide services to us and so long as federalism is still the organizing principle of how rules about those activities are made, it remains true that to have those rules come close to reflecting what we, collectively, indicate we want, our vote matters.
It is in vogue to claim that our votes "don't matter" but the cliché doesn't reflect reality. Both my city and our county are examples of how votes do matter and have significantly changed governance for the respective voters, and frankly the battle for the popular and electoral votes of Ohio is an example too.
The only way to prove that your vote doesn't matter is if you fail to use it. Don't you prefer to prove people wrong?
Copyright © 2012 Jill Miller Zimon; available under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike License.
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