How do we motivate people to get out and vote?
By Sparta Live | November 6, 2017 6:25 am
Last Updated: November 6, 2017 at 12:21 pm
Democratic Dialog – By Debra Wines
As citizens, we have the right to vote for people to represent us in our local, state, and federal government. This right has had a long history of denial for women and people of color. Protests, demonstrations, marches, court battles, and even deaths have taken place to ensure that every American citizen, over the age of 18, has the right to vote for the candidate of their choice. We must constantly be vigilant when it comes to protect that right. That means we must guard against proposed changes that lessen the ability to vote for some citizens and speak up against the continuously slanted gerrymandering of voting districts, not just here in Tennessee, but throughout our country.
The past few election cycles have shown a shift in the number of people who use their right to vote. As American citizens, we need to ask why? I know I have asked this question before, and I will keep asking it, because people need to ask their friends, family members and colleagues if they are registered voters and do they vote. If they say “no” to either or both questions, ask “why not?” In the state of Tennessee, not having the time is no excuse. We are blessed with early voting and really convenient hours, yet, from the statistics I’ve read, our voter turnout is unbelievably low. It isn’t just Tennessee that has continuously low voter turn-out. This is happening in a majority of states.
There has been a great deal of information written about this phenomenon over the past several years. Basically, the decline of registered voters and the people who actually go to the polls to vote started after World War II. Before states started offering early voting, one of the largest indicators for falling voting numbers was weather related. Yes, early snow storms, ice storms, rain, and bitter cold in the more northern states did take its toll on how many people could get out and vote. The number of people who stayed home because of weather issues may not have affected the outcome for a particular candidate, but it did lower the number of voters. I am sure there were all kinds of reasons numbers started dropping off, again, when people were only allowed to vote on only one day, during the work week. It was difficult to make it to the polls, especially for people who didn’t work near their assigned polling station.
The physical act of voting may take some effort. For some, the answer was using an “absentee ballot,” whether they were actually going to be out-of-town at the time of the election or not. I think it became easier for some people to justify not taking the time to vote. Another problem is too many people using the excuse, “My one vote isn’t going to make a difference.” Then you have those people who, with just cause, say, “I don’t like any of the candidates, so I’m not voting for anyone.” I heard that too many times during the last election. When I asked if those people voted in the primary election, nine times out of 10 the answer was, “No, I didn’t see any reason to waste my time.” By then, I could only shake my head.
There are groups springing up across Tennessee and the country that advocate getting involved in our local, state, and federal politics and government. I believe it is a great idea, because we need to change the way our leaders are elected and how they represent the people. We need to become more engaged in what our elected legislators are doing in our city and county offices, our state capital, and in Washington D.C. We cannot bury our heads in the sand and WISH our leaders would listen, hear, and react to our concerns. We must take an active role in not just voting for a candidate but also in finding and promoting good candidates who are willing and able to work for the people.
The pre-primary season has already started with all kinds of people declaring their intentions to run for various political offices. Diane Black is running for governor of Tennessee. She hosted a fundraiser last week for her supporters. The tab for a “meet and greet” was $1,000 per person. The supporters who wanted to have dinner with Diane had to cough up $8,000 per person. Does anyone know of someone from White County who was able to attend that campaign dinner? I know Diane Black has some very strong supporters who probably would have scraped the money together somehow just to be in the same room with her.
It is too bad that Diane Black could never quite see her way to meet with the constituents who wanted to ask her questions about her support of issues that would adversely affect their lives. It wasn’t surprising to see pictures of her and reports of her being in White County, DeKalb, and other surrounding counties during her “breaks” between being in Washington D.C. The surprising thing was that she went to meet people/companies who were supportive of her and never asked her difficult questions. Indivisible Groups throughout Diane Black’s district made repeated requests of her to hold a town meeting, and they were ignored. Her office staff was cordial and understanding, most of the time, considering they were defending Congressman Black’s voting record and harmful issues she was defending on her Facebook and web pages.
There are several possible candidates vying for the position of governor of Tennessee. I understand that name recognition is an enormous “helping hand” when running for any office. As voters, we have to consider why their name is widely recognized. If they have been in politics before, what was their record like? Did they do anything that helped the majority of their constituents or did they make their large donors’ desires their top priority? If their name recognition comes from doing business in Tennessee, what is the reputation of that person as a business leader? How do they treat people? How much would they be willing to sacrifice to be able to do the “right thing” for the people of Tennessee?
Our country is at a crossroads right now. We have an administration and Congress who appear to have no concern for the average American. For the past nine months, unless you have no form of communication with the world, we have been inundated with a new or ever-changing crisis every week coming out of Washington D.C. Mr. Trump and his cabinet members have done nothing to make America great. In fact, they have done more harm and caused more insecurity for the majority of people living in our country than I have ever seen. At the height of turmoil in our country during the late 60’s and early 70’s, I did not experience the current amount of concern and downright fear regarding the survival of our country. Perhaps those feelings come from the fact that not only is there a man in the White House who is totally unqualified for the position he holds, but we also have a Republican majority in Congress that is allowing him to have free reign.
I know there are those who disagree with my opinions of him, and that is fine. To be honest, I have never before refused to call any man who has been elected president of the United States by their proper title. It didn’t matter if I voted for him or not. It didn’t matter whether I agreed with his policies or not. I believed in the checks and balances of our American system of government, and I believed those presidents had earned the respect of the title. In my opinion, Mr. Trump has done nothing to earn the respect of being called “president.” I am constantly appalled by the way he behaves, the way he disrespects people of color, women, members of the LBGTQ community, immigrants, every minority, and everyone who has any religious belief, including “real” Christians. He has made a mockery of the presidency, of America, and patriotism.
Now, if we want to make changes to the way our government is functioning, we must use our right to vote and make sure our votes count. We cannot sit by and let the “other” guy stand up for us. We must stand up for ourselves, and we can do that in each and every election, if we get out and vote. It is a disgrace that fewer than 50 percent of America’s registered voters voted in the last election. People have died for our right to vote. The only significant way to honor those heroes is to use the strongest weapon we have against the destruction of our way of life and that is to vote. In the meantime, research candidates beyond their party affiliation, ask questions, push and prod to get as much truth from those who want our vote.