Excuses abound for people who think their vote is pointless in the upcoming general election.
"One vote doesn't matter," they say. "None of this affects me anyway."
I couldn't disagree more.
To put it quite simply, each and every race that will appear on the Nov. 6 ballot is of equal importance to every citizen in this country. The president and the Congress have the power to send our brothers and sisters to war or to enact sweeping legislation that will eventually affect us all, such as the Affordable Care Act. A city or township commissioner has the power to raise or lower taxes or change a zoning law that will have an immediate effect on residents. One vote in a local race can mean the difference between winning and losing. And one vote in a presidential race may not seem like much, but when thousands of people think that way too, we end up with thousands of people with no voice.
That is why every eligible voter should do two things - inform themselves as much as possible about where the candidates that will appear on their ballot stand and then vote on Nov. 6. With the prevalence of online news sources and the amazing capacity of our cell phones to connect us to the Internet with a quick tap of a touch screen, there is absolutely no excuse this year for voters to be uncertain where candidates stand.
Let's not have another Alvin Greene this year (the man who was most likely elected as South Carolina's Democratic candidate for senator in 2010 because he was the first name to appear on the ballot. Thank you alphabet, for that one).
There are few things more powerful than an informed electorate, and few things more dangerous than an uninformed one. Just as we groan and marvel at the sheer stupidity of some of our elected officials - take Todd Akins' "shut that whole thing down" comment - what must they think of us when we continue to elect people like Akins to represent us? How can we expect anything better from our politicians when we continually reaffirm their crazy ideas by electing the most extreme ones into office?
Just because you think military funding should go down doesn't mean you need to elect the guy that says he'll get rid of the military. That breeds the type of hopeless deadlocks we're experiencing right now, as our congressional leaders - Democrats and Republicans alike - simply point their fingers at each other and say, "But if he would only compromise, this wouldn't be an issue."
A little moderation goes a long way.
Though it may not seem like it lately, we, the voters, are still in charge. We elect people to represent us, not a political party.
What it all comes down to is this: every single one of us has got to vote. And with a loosening of the rules on who is allowed to vote early and by absentee, there really is no excuse this time around for those who may claim they are "too busy" to vote.
CBS news anchor Bob Scheiffer's mother had it right, and I can think of no more fitting way to end the third and final presidential debate or this column than by recounting her wise words, as Scheiffer did - "Go vote. It makes you feel big and strong."
EDITOR'S NOTE: Jackie Stark is a Chocolay Township resident and a staff reporter at The Mining Journal. Her column appears bi-weekly. She can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.