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To Vote or Not to Vote – Should Not Be the Question

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In earlier blogs I’ve urged people to contact their lawmakers to tell them how they feel about proposed legislation or other rules that affect them. It’s no secret that lawmakers are interested in what you think because you vote.

A powerful scenario that demonstrates the power you have is when you set up an appointment with one of your lawmakers who represent you and tell them that every Saturday you meet seven friends for breakfast. As a group, you talk about what kind of job the politicians that represent you and run this country are doing– and next Saturday, when you meet again, your friends are expecting to hear about your meeting and where your lawmaker stands on these three issues that will affect you all. This scenario is powerful because the constituent that meets with the lawmaker votes, and the other seven people in the group vote, and the families and other friends of the members of this group most likely respect their opinion because of their interest in government and important issues. They vote also. You can see why a politician will pay attention to this type of meeting. Now I realize that donating to a lawmaker’s campaign is also powerful. However, only a small percentage of a lawmaker’s constituents donate, and the fact of the matter is that a donor still only has one vote.

The scenario presented above accomplishes two things, one, it informs the lawmaker how you feel, which will impact, hopefully, where they stand on important issues. The second, it gives the lawmaker the chance to win, or lose, your vote at the next election, which is the focus of this blog. Voting is the single biggest thing you can do in our representative democracy.

It seemed in earlier times that the days leading up to the election were full of debates and discussions, and even though you tried to abide by the wise council not to discuss politics with your family and friends, you somehow found yourself in the middle of a discussion with views that differed from yours. Election days were upbeat and interesting. You voted and then went home to see how the elections were progressing, celebrating when your candidate won and moaning when they lost and then you got up the next day, went to work, and soldiered on. It seems to be different now, you read about families splitting apart and even divorcing over politics. The issues seem less important than attacking an opponent on a personal level. The idea of compromise or working across the aisle to solve problems is met with disdain, with candidates of that ilk often eliminated in a party’s primaries. What scares me is that this current environment may convince some people that their vote is useless and will keep them away from the polling booth. My goal is to convince you otherwise.

Now, more than in any other time, (in my humble opinion), a greater percentage of the voters in both parties have already made up their mind about who they will vote for. This is the result of the extreme polarization that exists. No manner of advertising, debates, fear of advanced age or legal troubles will change their minds. This means that it’s very possible that a small number of undecided voters will have a huge impact on who wins. I think there are many of us older people who fall into this undecided group. I’ve noticed that I have mellowed in my older years. I’m more willing to see the other side of an issue, more willing to listen rather than speak and able to bring my life experiences to bear as I evaluate an issue. I see these same traits in my older friends, and my research has confirmed the power of this older group. I think this will make our vote even more powerful.

There is another group that seems to have become disillusioned and thus somewhat disinterested in the elections. These are the voters in their 20s. They have only had three candidates they could vote for, Hillary, Trump, or Biden. These are not the candidates that sparked enthusiasm for voters of this age and, from their point of view, and in all likelihood, there won’t be a new candidate added to the list next November. If these young voters stay away on election day, it makes the senior vote even more powerful.

If you live in a state that historically votes Republican or Democrat, you may think your vote will have no impact – think again. There are state and local elections that are extremely important. It’s a fact that your state and local governments may have a more direct, quicker, and bigger impact on you than your federal lawmakers. And, once again, with the smaller number of votes needed to get elected in these state and local elections, your vote and your influence on other voters is magnified.

My goal here is to get you off your… couch and vote. Each state is a little different on how you register to vote and whether they will allow voting through the mail. Get online or ask someone to help you and make sure you’re registered. By getting registered you can participate in the primaries, which, in cities, counties and states where one party dominates the ultimate winner in November is often chosen. Once again, getting involved at this stage offers great leverage in getting your candidate elected.

Yesterday’s President’s Day gave us a chance to celebrate great Presidents in the past that had a huge impact on our country. Given the seriousness of the times we live in today, the next President may also have the chance to have a huge impact on the future of our country. I think it’s time for calmer voices to be heard, and the way they’re heard is through that quiet time inside the polling booth where you exercise the most powerful force in a democracy, the vote.

Best, Thair

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