Op-Ed

The power and value of voting

MCT

In a few days, the 2014 general election will be history.

We will either cheer successful campaigns we supported or feel sorrow for losses, but for sure, we will be relieved to not be forced to witness the seemingly endless deluge of commercials.

While I’m strictly nonpartisan in my advocacy for family policies that improve the odds for health, protection and lifelong success, I’m an ardent promoter of participation in all aspects of the political process.

I believe that voting is not just a right, it’s a sacred responsibility. There are few more influential civic activities than voting. It takes a few minutes but has impact for years to come.

When I think of the many who struggled, suffered, fought and died for our right to vote, I’m motivated all the more to have my voice be heard.

But when all the words are said, charges leveled and millions of dollars spent, it’s we, the voters, who hold the power to decide who will lead our nation, our states and communities into the future. Here are 10 reasons to vote:

▪ To honor those in our military who courageously fight for us and our law-enforcement officers, firefighters and emergency workers who respond to our needs and defend the peace at home.

▪ To honor people who struggled for civil rights, women’s suffrage and the ideals of justice for all whose diverse voices are essential for our nation’s moral health and community vitality. Freedom needs affirmation.

▪ To be a good example to our children and grandchildren by exercising the right to vote as a symbol of our faith in democracy. By voting we send a signal of the importance of the choices we, as adults, make to secure a better future.

▪ Voting is our society’s great equalizer.

No matter our station in life, income, ethnic heritage or social status, every citizen over age 18 has the same power of one vote.

▪ Pollsters do not determine who wins elections; voters do. Predicting the outcome of elections, especially close ones, is at best an inexact science. Pollsters and political pundits have their roles, but like each of us, they only have one vote.

▪ Voting for candidates in whom we believe, and for or against ballot initiatives we know will affect our future, is a perfect counterbalance to the flood of negativity polluting the airwaves and filling our mailboxes.

▪ While voting may now be a bit more complicated than in previous years, access to registration information and early voting are still available for people who want their voices heard. Democracy is a team sport. Spectators don’t count.

▪ While how we vote is confidential, the fact that we have voted, or failed to vote, is public record. Elected officials know which individuals and demographic groups are voting, and we who do vote are more likely to be influential in policy debates. Non-voters are voiceless and by not participating can become victims of their own neglect.

▪ Regret is preventable. Nov. 5 is one day too late. Have a “no excuses” attitude by committing to vote, ask others to join us in voting and promote a positive approach to making a difference among family, friends and colleagues.

▪ Be part of making history. Because every indicator points to the prospect that this election will have impact for years, every vote is even more important. As a Floridian, I know how close elections can be. Being a participant in affecting history gives each of us a sense of pride in participation and the power to touch the future.

Jack Levine is founder of the 4Generations Institute in Tallahassee.

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