Voting day, November 2nd, 2010 is coming up on Tuesday, and I am already hearing the excuse of those that don’t vote.
One of the most ill-informed excuses I have heard to not vote is, “It doesn’t matter who becomes president” and its corollary, “It doesn’t matter who you vote for as your representative.” While both conclusions about our national politicians might be true, those excuses show a complete lack of knowledge regarding elections. President, representative, and senator are a small fraction of what we vote for every year.
Here’s a partial list of the other offices and issues we vote for each election cycle:
State senate and house seats. These people determine education funding, road projects, prison spending, other state spending and state laws. They have as much or more impact on your daily life as Congress does.
State Attorney General that sets policy on law enforcement for the state, like those pesky speed trap cameras in Arizona and other states.
Judges that make decisions regarding issues like the First Amendment and sentencing policy.
City Council, County Council seats and the mayor. First, the city council is actually accountable to you to an extent Congress never will be. They are citizens in your town and can’t run and hide in Washington, DC when things aren’t going well. Because of a responsive city council, we have adult learning centers and new health clinics. Certainly, our council has made mistakes, but they affect you directly.
That is not all, but lets move on the to the other reason to vote, propositions.
Propositions on the ballot are initialed by groups such as corporations, unions, and non-profits. Don’t be fooled, some of those non-profits were set up by corporations or outside interests from other states. Propositions that might be on the ballot include, but are not limited, to the following.
Taxes like the recent 1-cent sales tax that saved thousands of teachers’ jobs in Arizona. If you hate all taxes, you can vote against these propositions.
Civil Rights like California’s anti-gay marriage Proposition 8. I bet some non-voting gays and lesbians wish they had registered to vote against that one. Remember, these anti-gay laws are put on the ballot to drum up voter turnout amongst conservatives. Do you really want conservatives to set the political agenda in your state. Then why abdicate your vote?
Immigration policy like Proposition 300, that limited services to illegals in Arizona. While I believe it overkill and redundant, it didn’t create racial profiling opportunities like SB 1070 has.
Medical Marijuana laws that have created weird libertarian/hippie coalitions (maybe not so weird since both have a beef with government intrusion into our lives) and support from doctors, nurses, liberals and conservatives have also been on the ballot in several states, and currently in Arizona. The only big money against medical marijuana laws is from the pharmaceutical companies that stand to not make huge if their synthetic THC and other marijuana derivatives are available over the marijuana club counters. Unfortunately, staunch supporters of medical marijuana are also those that think “voting doesn’t matter”. Tough luck on you if this gets on the ballot and you aren’t registered to vote.
Euthanasia laws that allow for heavily supervised and regulated assisted suicide.
Health care bills, also know as “socialized medicine” have been on the ballot in a few states.
Tribal Gambling and State lotteries have been enacted in some states using the proposition method. If you like or hate these things, why not vote?
Public Transit bonds and plans passed or failed due to the proposition process. If you believe in public transit or hate it, you can make your voice heard through the vote.
State laws regarding abortion, almost always for limiting access, have been passed or turned down through propositions. These include public funding laws for family planning clinics that offer abortion services (though mostly they are for family planning: contraception and pre-natal care) and parental notification laws.
State gun laws. Let’s say you want insane serial killers to have guns. Why not vote for that “gun access for everyone law”? Or perhaps you think that insane serial killers shouldn’t have guns and perhaps a background check and waiting period are good ideas to protect law-abiding gun owners. Voting for gun laws in your state is a good option.
There are propositions on every ballot, and not voting doesn’t mean these propositions won’t take affect. So why not vote for or against issues you support or oppose?
If you don’t think city councils, judges, schools boards, mayors, governors or any of the propositions listed make no difference in your life, you are deluded. If you hold such a delusion, perhaps it is better that you don’t vote.
For those that want to learn more about your state and local officials and propositions, I provide the following links. You can also find your own state links by searching +state assembly +(state name). For my peeps in AZ, it’s http://www.azleg.gov/
The best link for voting resources I know of:
To get information about an officials or candidate’s voting record, supporters and other information, go to:
Public Citizen also has good information
For local elections, check your alternative weekly, local dailies, and voting pamphlets. In Tucson, I rely on the Tucson Weekly and other endorsing institutions I support: