Rock the vote
Around this time of year my dad and I have an annual conversation about voting. It’s as predictable as turkey on Thanksgiving. My dad calls me towards the end of October and asks if I know who I’m voting for in the upcoming election. By that time, I’ve usually made up my mind and tell him about our local races. He tells me about the political scene where he votes. And always, without fail, by the end of our talk, one of us hangs up wondering how it’s possible we share DNA. Suffice it to say, we have vastly different beliefs on how to solve the world’s problems.
But regardless of our opposite political affiliations, we do agree on one thing: Voting is a duty.
Long ago my dad impressed upon my sisters and me the importance of voting. He took us to the voting booth with him when we were kids and we’d fight over who got to wear the "I voted" sticker he was given by the poll worker. I proudly and excitedly registered to vote on my 18th birthday and have voted in every election since. You can call me a geek, but I’m a geek who participates.
Throughout the years I’ve watched enough CNN to see the stories about people in developing democracies who walk for three days, with five small children in tow, in the middle of a desert with no water, just to stand in line for another three days to exercise their right to vote. And it sickens me to know how many Americans can’t be bothered to show up on Election Day.
Last year, the general election voter turnout for the 2014 midterms was the lowest it’s been in any election cycle since World War II, just 36.4 percent of the voting-eligible population cast ballots. The turnout was dismal, but not surprising; voter participation has been dropping since the 1964 election.
In the days after this coming election we’ll hear stories on the news about voter apathy. To which most of us will say, "Who cares?"
The news anchors might as well start their reports like this: "With all the precincts reporting, it’s ‘Who cares?’ with 44 percent of the vote. Coming in with 39 percent is ‘My vote doesn’t matter.’ ‘Oh, was that today?’ secured 15 percent of the vote. And coming in last, ‘Democracy’ with a dismal 2 percent of the vote."
I know when there are no federal elections on the ballot it’s less motivating to go to the polls. But I would argue that voting in a local election is even more important, as your vote for city council (if you live in the city limits) and the school bond will probably impact you more directly than who we elect on a federal level. After all, no one in Congress is talking about how to solve our transportation and affordable housing issues, or "keeping Park City, Park City."
When I encourage people to vote, I often hear excuses like, "I’m not political," or, "My vote doesn’t really matter."
And I always respond by telling them, "Bad politicians are elected by good people who don’t vote."
When people tell me, "I don’t have time," my response is: "You can take 10 minutes of your day to vote, or you can take 10 minutes of the following day to read stories about low voter turnout."
There’s really no excuse for not voting. Early voting is now open. If you choose to vote on Nov. 3, you can visit Vote.Utah.gov for real-time information on wait times at the polls. This website also provides you a sample of the ballot you’ll see, candidate profiles and your polling location.
Voting is a right, a privilege and a duty. And democracy requires participation.
Amy Roberts is a longtime Park City resident, freelance writer and the proud owner of two ill-behaved rescue dogs, Boston and Stanley.