Voting: Use It Or Lose It

As a member of the 45% minority of eligible Vermont citizens who actually turned out to vote on November 4th, I can sympathize with the 55% majority of no-shows; but only to a point.  Yes, the choices presented by the Democrats and Republicans for Vermont’s highest office were not very inspiring.  When Legislators reconvened to select a Governor they were presented with the same lackluster choices that Vermont citizens faced.

But voting is a “right” granted to American citizens, while not always the case in other countries.  Those that serve our nation in the military are often regarded as “defending our freedoms”, and this includes the right to vote.  Sadly, the right to vote does not always also include the right to good choices to select from.

The main point I want to convey is “Use it or lose it”.  If we don’t vote, despite the choices put forth by the Donkey and Elephant parties, we may someday no longer retain this right.  Or, if we still hang on to the right to vote, the two major political parties might someday be even less concerned about putting forth good candidates.

Since 1984, I have not missed voting in a single election.  The election of 1980 was what ingrained this habit in me.

When I graduated from high school, the voting age was 21.  When I transferred from a community college to Michigan State University in September 1979, voting was the last thing on my mind.  I was focused on my classes, navigating around a huge campus, and of course, a social life.  A short time before the 1980 election, I discovered that even though I had been a citizen of Michigan my entire life, I could not vote in East Lansing.  As my parents had not attended college, they were unaware of such local laws which prevent students from exercising their right to vote for President and state Governor.  When I first heard about an “absentee ballot”, it was too late to apply for one.  Going home on a weekday to my hometown’s government office in person was not a convenient option, but it was already too late.

At that point I was 22 years old, even though by then Congress had changed the voting age to 18.  So for the first possible election I could participate in, I was not able to vote.  Hence, since that experience, I have dutifully shown up in the voting booth, or requested an absentee ballot if necessary.

It doesn’t matter what the Democrats are dishing out, or what the Republicans are re-hashing, I will be there in the voting booth in November, every even numbered year.  If I have to, which I have done on occasion, I will use the “write-in” option.

To my fellow citizens of the 55% majority who stayed home on Election Day, I say, “Use it or lose it”.  Besides the write-in option, there are sometimes alternative party or independent candidates for some offices.  You have the right to make a “protest vote”.  In my opinion, showing up to make a protest vote is preferable to just staying home.

We are not required to buy whatever a given retailer is selling, and we don’t have to always vote for whatever the Democrats or Republicans are selling.  But we should show up in the voting booth.  How else will the two major parties and their candidates “officially” know that we aren’t buying what they are selling, as in this year’s Governor’s race?  In addition, there are other important offices which need to be decided: Lieutenant Governor, Auditor of Accounts, Secretary of State, Treasurer, county Senators, town Representatives, and don’t forget the Justices of the Peace.

The “Use it or lose it” mantra can also be applied to the political parties.  If a party is in the majority, or aspires to become the majority party (again), how will they choose to use their power?  Will they represent the citizens?  Or will they instead represent entities like “corporate personhoods” or ALEC?  If the two major parties continue on their current path, both in Montpelier and Washington DC, then I would hope that more citizens would choose to run for office as Independent candidates.

To me, there were two bright spots in the 2014 Election.  One is that both Lt. Gov. Phil Scott (R) and U.S. House Rep. Peter Welch (D) both received over 60% of the vote.  This demonstrates that when either major party puts forth a good candidate, the voters will respond with bi-partisan support.  But when both parties put forth the gubernatorial candidates we were presented with, you end up with a “plurality” situation, and the final decision ends up in the lap of the Legislature.  I voted for both Phil Scott and Peter Welch.  I did not vote for any of the three candidates the Legislature will decide upon.

The other bright spot is that there were two Independent candidates for Vermont Senate, and twenty (20) Independent candidates for State House.  Most of these candidates did not win.  But the point is that 22 people chose to run outside of the two-party system, and not associate themselves with these tired old parties.  See VTDigger’s 2014 candidate list.

Whenever the voters are frustrated with a certain party, the majority can flip-flop to the other major party.  Essentially our legislative and Congressional races are in total a “coin flip”, because it determines the majority party, and all of the trappings that go with majority status.  You still basically end up with two choices, Republican or Democratic majority.  If a legislative body can flip, like the U.S. Senate just did, it can certainly flop back in a not too distant year.

Voters: Your right to vote, “Use it or Lose it”!

Democrats and Republicans: Your majority power, “Use it (well) or lose it (at the next election’s bell)”.



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