Why to vote

Posted on November 2, 2012. Filed under: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette Columns | Tags: , , , , , |

Why should you vote next Tuesday? Let me count the reasons.

Humblest apologies to Elizabeth Barrett Browning, although surely there has been greater butchery of her most famous sonnet’s opening line, with less noble intent.

The question is a valid one, considering that half of eligible Americans may fail to cast a ballot next Tuesday, if this election is typical.

Why vote, when you are but one tiny voice, easily drowned out by massive corporate-campaign fortunes and special-interest lobbyists? When Washington, D.C., seems further removed than Mars? There are many reasons, and here are a healthy half-dozen:

1. Your vote is a sacred gift.

Imagine a delivery man arriving at your home with a package. Inside, beneath bloodstained tissue paper, is a box with a note that says, “I died protecting this for you. Please honor it.”

The privilege of representative self-government was bought and paid for with the blood of patriots. You would cherish a personal keepsake that someone gave his life for you to have. Hold your vote in the same regard.

2. Every election is about your money.

If you’re average, the first four months or so of your income goes to taxes (Tax Freedom Day in Arkansas was April 11 this year). That’s a far greater percentage than what prompted the “taxation without representation” rallying cry for independence during colonial times.

In fact, taxes today represent a significant personal investment, normally more than your home, food and clothing combined.

In those areas, you don’t think twice about spending a little time making sure your hard-earned money is well-spent. Don’t fall victim to “taxation without participation,” which may present more ominous peril to liberty than its Revolutionary War predecessor.

It doesn’t take much time at all (far less than you spend watching television) to investigate the candidates and issues, go to the polls and cast an informed vote.

3. Your vote truly counts where it matters most.

It’s easy to feel unimportant in the presidential election, where in many instances (Arkansas among them) a state’s electoral votes seem already pledged to a candidate.

But you are not just a citizen of the United States. You are also a citizen of a sovereign state, a county, a school district and probably a municipality. It is the laws and policies of those entities—enacted by state and local elected officials—that govern the bulk of your life.

From education to jobs to transportation to crime and quality of life, the people with the most direct government influence are city council members, school board members, quorum court members, county officers, mayors, state legislators and state constitutional officers including the governor.

Many times, local elections are decided by fewer votes than are in a Sunday School class. Don’t worry that your vote for president might be meaningless; recognize and realize instead that your apathy about local elections and issues weakens society right there in your own backyard.

4. You probably already vote for lots of less-important stuff.

The power of democratic selection is popular and well-entrenched in many areas of life besides government. Every poll you have ever seen or participated in is an election.

The number-one ranked team, and often the MVPs or all-stars, in any given sport are voted on. The latest singing sensation on one of several television shows is voted on. The local “favorite” restaurant (or whatever) is voted on.

Even a “like” selection on any particular Facebook post or status is a form of a vote.

The fact is, you and most of the people you know actually love to vote and be heard—on certain things that you enjoy. Once every couple of years you should be responsible enough to find motivation to vote on important things, too.

5. Enjoy a little moral superiority, at least for a day.

There is power and self-esteem in accomplishment, and regardless of how average or inadequate you may sometimes feel in other respects, going to the polls with a purpose puts you in a somewhat elite category because so many other people don’t.

Carry your head high to and from the ballot box.

6. Some votes need to be canceled, and you’re just the person to do it.

Think of the most misguided, or misinformed, or just plain dumb people you know (they might even be kin to you). You probably wouldn’t trust them with anything important—your money, your children, your security, and certainly not your future.

But if they vote and you don’t, you are trusting them with everything, including political dominion over you. Every well-rounded, well-informed vote cancels a single-issue, self-serving or simply stupid vote, and heaven knows that plenty of the latter categories will be cast on Tuesday. The country desperately needs vote cancelers. Think of Uncle Sam pointing his finger at you.

There you have it: a few reasons to actively become part of the essential electorate. And with early voting, you don’t even have to wait and sit through the lines on election day. Viva la vote!

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