VOTING MATTERS

ABSTRACT: Election Day is just over a week away. Although it’s easy to look at the dysfunction in Washington and the huge amounts of money being spent on campaigns and feel that voting and participating in the election doesn’t matter, that would be wrong. There will be lots of close elections this year all across the country – both for elected officials and for citizen’s initiatives that will be on the ballot. There are vested interests, usually corporations and wealthy individuals, and in many cases the Republicans have been their allies, who are trying to keep or discourage people from voting. Therefore, it is important to get out and vote, and to encourage others to do so, to send a message that these efforts to suppress voting, which are blatantly anti-democratic, won’t work.

There are many good candidates and important citizens’ initiatives on the ballot that deserve and need our votes. Even if there aren’t candidates or ballot questions that are important to vote for in your district, you can make phone calls to encourage people to vote (in your district or others) and you can donate money to out-of-your-district candidates that share your views or to organizations that support your views. If you want to support progressive candidates, an easy way to do so is through the Progressive Change Campaign Committee (PCCC) at http://boldprogressives.org/. Move On.org is another, similar organization that you can support through donations, signing their petitions on a range of issues, or supporting out-of-your-district candidates through them: http://front.moveon.org/.

This is going to be a close election at the local level and nationally. The implications for our democracy are extremely significant. We need to send a message to our politicians that we, the voters, are the voice of democracy and that we want government that works. They need to know that we want them to represent our interests, not those of large corporations and the very wealthy.

FULL POST: Election Day is just over a week away. Although it’s easy to look at the dysfunction in Washington and the huge amounts of money being spent on campaigns and feel that voting and participating in the election doesn’t matter, that would be wrong.

There will be lots of close elections this year all across the country – both for elected officials and for citizen’s initiatives that will be on the ballot – where a few voters will make all the difference. The results in these races will matter. Moreover, there are vested interests, usually corporations and wealthy individuals, and in many cases the Republicans have been their allies, who are trying to keep or discourage people from voting. They do so because they know that their supporters will vote and the lower they can keep the voter turnout, the more likely they are to win.

They work to keep voting down in two main ways. First, they enact laws and voting procedures that make it harder to vote. These voting barriers primarily affect low income and minority voters. They also disproportionately affect seniors and women. These groups are more likely to vote for progressive politicians and policies, as well as for Democrats. Therefore, these wealthy and corporate interests want to reduce voting by people in these groups. [1] [2] [3]

Second, the wealthy and corporate interests engage in massive funding of negative campaign ads. These discourage voters and make them cynical. They also introduce doubts into voters’ minds about good candidates. The huge number of these negative ads and their repetition drowns out other information and shifts voters’ perceptions even when the message presented is distorted or false. This applies to ballot questions as well as candidates.

Therefore, it is important to get out and vote, and to encourage others to do so, simply to send a message that these efforts to suppress voting, which are blatantly anti-democratic, won’t work. The higher the voter turnout, the closer we are to having the true democracy that is America’s ideal.

There are many good candidates on the ballot that deserve and need our votes. In some cases, it may not be an ideal candidate, but there often are significant differences between the candidates, nonetheless. There also are important citizens’ initiatives or questions on the ballot that will make important policy changes. [4]

Even if there aren’t candidates or ballot questions that are important to vote for in your district, there are two things you can do to help candidates in other districts, if you are so motivated. You can make phone calls to encourage people to vote (i.e., get out the vote or GOTV calls) in your district or others. These are very important because without a Presidential election on the ballot turnout tends to be low, and, as I mentioned above, there are active efforts to keep and discourage people from voting. Therefore, encouragement to get out and vote can make a difference.

The other thing you can do is donate money to out-of-your-district candidates that share your views or to organizations that support your views. Any amount helps. If many people give just $5.00, it can add up to a significant amount.

If you want to support progressive candidates – what some people are referring to as the Elizabeth Warren wing of the Democratic Party – an easy way to do so is through the Progressive Change Campaign Committee (PCCC) at http://boldprogressives.org/. Key issues for PCCC are taking back our democracy from wealthy individuals and corporations, expanding Social Security, fixing Wall St., and addressing the burden of student loan debt. If you click on the collage of four faces at the top of their web page, you will get a list of candidates they support. You can easily decide which ones you’d like to support and how much to contribute (as little as $3). If you click on the Call Out The Vote box right next to the faces, you’ll be given information on how you can make GOTV calls.

Move On.org is another organization that you can support through donations, signing their petitions on a range of issues, or supporting out-of-your-district candidates through them: http://front.moveon.org/. They support issues and candidates that are similar to those of PCCC.

This is going to be a close election at the local level and nationally. The implications for our democracy are extremely significant. We need to send a message to our politicians that we, the voters, are the voice of democracy and that we want government that works. They need to know that we want them to represent our interests, not those of large corporations and the very wealthy.

[1]       Moyers, B., 10/24/14, “The Fight — and the Right — to Vote,” Moyers & Company (http://billmoyers.com/episode/fight-right-vote/)

[2]       Boston Globe Editorial, 10/18/14, “Voter ID laws: Study proves the obvious,” The Boston Globe

[3]       Dubose, L., 9/1/14, “The party of Lincoln takes aim at Black voters,” The Washington Spectator

[4]       Hightower, J., Oct. 2014, “Election 2014: A politics that matters is bubbling up,” The Hightower Lowdown (http://www.hightowerlowdown.org/)

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