The Midterm Elections are HERE and it's time to make your voice be heard loud and clear! If you don't believe me, take it from historian and Texas A&M Professor Dr. Sarah McNamara whom I got the privilege of sitting down and taking with about the importance of voting here in America. Your voice DOES matter, we want you to get to the polls, and here's why:
Why is voting so important?
"Voting is important because it's your opportunity to show what you think and to craft the nation in which you live into the vision that you hope that it could be, that it can have. It's your only form of representation, and if you don't vote, you're basically giving up that opportunity to be represented. And there are so many people who fought for so long for people in the United States to be able to have the right to vote, that not voting is in many ways giving that up. If you don't somebody else is going to do it for you and they're going to speak on your behalf."
Why do you think voter turnout is so low in America?
"In the United States we're not mandated to vote, which in some ways makes it a democratic choice, you don't have to vote if you don't want to vote. Voter turnout is low for a few reasons. There are people who want to vote who don't have the ability to vote. People who have been previously incarcerated, some states don't allow people who have been guilty of certain types of crimes to reenter society fully. In other areas, it has to do with restrictions on what you need in order to vote, so, different types of IDs, different types of proof of registration, that affect different communities differently. For example, right now one of the questions in certain states is do you have to have an ID that illustrates where you live, or is it your mailing address, which for some people is different. That affects particularly Native Americans who live on reservations who disproportionately use P.O. boxes, which are not their physical addresses. Other things are the times of voting. If a state restricts the time during which somebody can vote to one's working hours only. If you are a person who works 2-3 jobs, a lot of people rely on part-time employment, and that doesn't allow people to be able to stand in line for 2-3 hours in order to vote. So early voting is really important and having early voting available on weekends is really important. Things like not knowing you're no longer on a voter registry, so checking to be sure you're registered to vote is really important, knowing your paperwork is current."
"If people just feel like their vote doesn't matter, is a bigger problem. That whatever they say isn't going to make a difference. Which if we think about elections, especially from 2000-present, that idea is completely false. Every single person's vote matters. In the last 20 years elections have been decided by very small margins, very frequently. People not voting often times makes a bigger impact than we would like to think. People not voting is more likely to happen in a midterm election than a presidential election. It's not that they're smaller, they're just as important. But people feel like they're lower stakes. You have this cult of personality that grows behind a person and you feel really attached to it (talking about the president), whereas someone may not feel as attached to their local county commissioner. But what's going to affect your everyday life more than what somebody is doing in Washington D.C. are what are local issues of taxing, or how are you changing the board of education, or who are instituting these laws that make it difficult for other people to vote, or how is your county being gerrymandered, or who is this judge sitting on this? If someone is going to make a real impact starting with your community is a really important part. That's what shapes the nation even though it doesn't feel as fancy."
What would you say to the person who says they don't agree/care about either politician so they're abstaining from voting?
"If they don't care about either politician there's probably about 24 questions that you're asked to vote on in any individual election. So the odds that they don't care about anything on that ballot are really low. It's very easy to feel like you're viscerally opposed to two people based on television ads or what somebody else says. Nobody is you. Unless you're running that perfect candidate isn't going to exist but you can get closer to a nation or a community that speaks to you through that candidate. At the end of the day, that's as close as you can get, a democratic republic. You're electing representatives to represent your ideas. If you don't speak up about it someone is speaking for you. But if somebody feels that strongly about it you can skip that person and go to the next issue on the ballot. There are 24-26 action items on a ballot."
What's the best way to be an informed voter?
"Do your homework. Any time there is some sort of political ad, they're telling you something from that campaign's perspective. It's very simple to know what a candidate stands for. Most people who are running for senate or congress have been in other elections before, you can look up their voting records. Pretty much everybody has some sort of online platform. As soon as you start reading them you'll be like, "oh this sounds great," or "that sounds terrible to me." Whomever it is that speaks to you, take the time and do your work, look at what they're saying and doing, are they qualified from your perspective, do you want that person speaking to you?"
Compared to elections in the past, do you think there is a greater sense of urgency in America right now, how is the political climate different than the past?
"I do think that the climate is particularly different, this has been one of the most energetic midterm campaigns that I've seen in a really long time. Midterm campaigns are extremely important, people not turning out often decides them more often than not. But there have been discussions of people being dissatisfied with either political party and seeing it as a moment for change. People are looking to redefine the narrative of who the United States is, people who are dissatisfied with the national and international perspective. We talk about the united states being a place of freedom and equality but it's becoming increasingly obvious that those things are lacking in many areas presently in a way that it's hard to look away from. What the United States wants to be I think is something that is at stake in the upcoming election, or how to correct a course that has gone in a different direction."
Find your polling place here and get to the polls and VOTE like someone's LIFE depends on it, because it DOES!