Editorial: Voting Is the Only Solution for What Ails Us

  • This July 14, 2018 photo shows computer mouse pads with Secure the Vote logo on them, displayed on a table at the Election Systems & Software (ES&S) vendor at a convention of state secretaries of state in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)

Thursday, November 01, 2018

Huge majorities of Americans — 75 percent, according to an NPR/Ipsos poll — want stricter gun laws. Huge majorities of Americans — 75 percent, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation poll — want the Affordable Care Act’s protections for people with pre-existing conditions to continue. Huge majorities of Americans — 78 percent, according to a Bloomberg poll — believe the Supreme Court’s decision equating corporate money with free speech is wrong. Huge majorities of Americans — 83 percent, according to a Fox News poll — want a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants who were brought to the United States as children.

Yet the elected officials who nominally represent these huge majorities of Americans have not only failed to act on these and many other issues, in many cases they are taking the country in the opposite direction.

Why is it that? Because too many Americans don’t vote. And the politicians know it.

According to FairVote, national turnout failed to exceed 60 percent in nine of the last 12 presidential elections. In seven of the last 12 midterm elections, national turnout was less than 40 percent. (Twin State voters usually turn out at higher rates. Young people, on the other hand, have long voted at such a low rate — about 20 percent — that they have been deemed irrelevant by many political leaders.) The takeaway for politicians is this: If they fail to act on issues their constituents care about, they know the electoral consequences likely will be insignificant. That frees them to cater to special interests, not the people they were elected to represent.

This is a big problem. The solution is simple. Vote.

Vote in Tuesday’s midterm election. Vote for federal candidates. Vote for state candidates. Vote for county candidates. Vote at your next Town Meeting. Vote in the 2020 presidential election. Just vote.

Americans have offered many excuses for not exercising their franchise: They’re too busy, they can’t get to the polls, they don’t know enough about the candidates, they don’t like the weather. These are cop-outs. Make the time to vote, or get an absentee ballot if you’re eligible. Catch a ride to the polls. Get informed about who’s running (the League of Women Voters, at www.lwv.org, and BallotReady.org are helpful, nonpartisan resources). Put on a coat.

Those who say their vote doesn’t matter should know that nearly 130 million people cast ballots in the last presidential election, but the outcome turned on fewer than 100,000 votes in three states. As former President Barack Obama has pointed out, that’s smaller than the audience at the Coachella music festival. If you are turned off by negative campaign ads, understand that that’s intentional. Negative campaign ads and ugly social media posts are designed to dissuade people from voting. Don’t fall into that trap.

But what about election security? Congress has appropriated $380 million to the states to help prevent foreign meddling (not nearly enough, but it’s a start), and federal, state and local authorities are working together and sharing new security tools to make sure that all Americans can vote and all votes can be properly counted. Other organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union, are already monitoring the process to ensure fairness.

Here’s what you can do to make sure your vote counts: Confirm that you are registered by calling your town or city clerk or checking online through the secretary of state’s office in your state. If you encounter a problem at the polls on Election Day, request a provisional ballot, fill it out, and then follow up with local election officials to make sure it has been counted. Once you’ve filled out your ballot, review it to make sure it’s accurate and complete before casting it.

The stakes are high. Tuesday’s election will determine who controls the House and the Senate. It will decide what level of oversight Congress will exercise over the executive branch and the president. It will shape the country’s policies on health care, education, transportation, taxation and much more. It will determine the future of the federal judiciary. In many states (although not the Twin States) it will have a major impact on redistricting decisions following the 2020 census. It will influence whether Americans find it easier — or harder — to vote in future elections.

It will determine if this is one of America’s finest hours, or one of its darkest.