President. Senator. Representative. Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Secretary of State, Treasurer, Attorney General, Insurance Commissioner, Auditor. State Senator, State Representative. Public Service Commissioner. Mayor, City Councillor. All kinds of Judges, and Ballot Initiatives. Plus others that I’m sure I forgot.
Wow, that’s a lot of things and offices to vote on.
It’s hard to be politically involved. It really is. Many of us manage to find a presidential candidate that we can support and vote for, but end up overlooking many of those other races and candidates. I do this too; I’m not immune. About 60% of eligible people vote in the Presidential election, and about 40% vote in elections like the one coming up next Tuesday, the “midterm elections,” where Senators and Representatives are up for a vote but the presidency is not. Even fewer people vote in elections that are only for state or local offices–about 32% of registered voters in Jackson voted in this year’s special mayoral election.
People have all kinds of reasons for not voting. Some people may just be too busy with work or life on Election Day. Others don’t feel like they have the knowledge that they should, and so actually feel bad about voting when they know they’re not very informed. Some people think that the main two candidates in a particular race just aren’t worth voting for, so they stay home. And still others think that their vote doesn’t matter, because they’re just one person. I sympathize with people who don’t vote. But not voting is one of the most impractical things you can do, and I’m going to tell you why.
Every person who holds a political office has power. That is a simple fact. They may not have a lot of power, but they have the ability to influence my life and your life. The President of the US is obviously powerful, but let’s look at some of those other offices. Senators get to vote on where to send the people in our military, and on any of President Obama’s appointments, in addition to voting on any law that President Obama wants to pass. Representatives vote on those same laws, all of which affect us. Our state’s governor is standing between 100,000 Mississippians and their Medicaid coverage, which the federal government has offered to pay for almost entirely. Our state senators and representatives are helping him in that effort.
Jackson’s mayor and city councillors are trying to figure out how to bring Costco to Jackson, which would create a large amount of jobs. They are also trying to figure out the best way to spend Jackson’s limited funds–should we repave roads first, save the Farish Street project, repair our sewer system, or something else? You could literally write a book full of examples about how the people who are elected to office can determine whether you have a job. How much you can get paid. Whether you have access to health insurance. What children can be taught in school. All of these things are determined by the people that we elect. If we don’t make an effort to vote, we are implying that we do not care.
Yes, sometimes the two candidates for a particular office are not great options. But that is a reason to get more involved, not less involved. Our Senate election next week is a good example. Thad Cochran is an establishment Republican, and Travis Childers is a Democrat who has signed a harsh anti-immigration pledge, and voted against Obamacare when he was in Congress. I would much rather have the opportunity to vote for somebody who will fight for a woman’s right to have an abortion, for a fair and comprehensive immigration policy, and for truly progressive healthcare. But you know what? If more people had voted and spoken out during the Democratic primary, we might have gotten that candidate instead of Childers.
Mississippi, of course, is a state where the Republican usually wins, at least in statewide elections. Some people feel like this means that their vote doesn’t really matter–if a Republican is going to win anyway, why bother? Did you know that Mississippi is one of the only states where President Obama did better in 2012 than he did in 2008? I’m fond of referencing this statistic, because it shows me that things really can change. What year will Mississippi next vote for a Democrat for president? I don’t know, but I bet it’s closer than you think. In the meantime, we can keep voting to show politicians that there are people in this state who want to change things. The more people vote for a change in policies, the more candidates will pay attention to you the next time around, and the more power you have while they are in office.
Some people prefer to get politically involved with issues, rather than candidates. And that’s great! On Thursday, I was at a rally full of people supporting the expansion of Medicaid. We weren’t there to support any particular candidate, we just wanted to show our support for this particular issue. This way, our politicians know that there is real support for this policy, and they can continue to push for it. Because at the end of the day, the people who we elect to office are the ones who make the policies and who make the laws. They can change things, but we can let them know what we need changed, and we can kick them out of office if they don’t do that. Everything comes down to who we have representing us in public office. If they don’t support our policies, then we can choose to elect someone who does. Or we can choose to stay home.
So go out and vote TOMORROW! I’m not going to tell you who to vote for in this column, I wanted it to just be a post full of reasons why you should be voting in the first place. You can vote for the Republican or for the Democrat, but you don’t have to. You can vote a third party, or you can even write-in another name! Vote for somebody, and they know you’re satisfied or dissatisfied. Don’t vote, and they don’t know you exist.