Free to choose

I first voted in a presidential election in 1956, when Dwight D. Eisenhower, the popular incumbent, ran for re-election against Adlai Stevenson, a rematch between the two of the 1952 election. Having grown up in a Republican household, I voted for Eisenhower, whose running mate was Richard Nixon. With maturity comes wisdom, I have learned. It didn’t take me long to switch to the Democratic Party, a much better fit for my personal values and priorities.

“All politics is local,” the late House Speaker Thomas P. “Tip” O’Neill declared in 1935 during his first run for office. His point was that a politician succeeds to the extent that she or he can truly understand and act upon the concerns and needs of her or his constituents. Voters, according to this principle, care more about these personal issues than the larger, less tangible national and international matters. There is validity to this idea, but some of our recent national elections might demonstrate the opposite.

Either way, I strongly believe in responsible voting. Starting with that first voting experience in 1956, I have never once failed to vote in an election in which I was eligible to vote. Not once. This is how we make our voices heard. In these times, what could be more important?

Learning the facts about the candidates and their stands on the issues can be a challenge sometimes, but with a little effort, a responsible voter can enter the voting booth well-informed. Just now, local elections abound in my town and several surrounding communities. Area news media love to report the results on election night but aren’t so big on informing voters before the election. Public forums and debate and candidates’ web sites offer some help, but one must make the effort to make use of them to become well informed.

Low turnouts have always puzzled me. Our nation must be among the world’s worst when it comes to exercising our right to vote in elections. I almost specified “important elections,” but all elections are important. Every one of them. Low voting percentages shock me. It’s shameful. When it comes to choosing our life mate, we don’t leave that important decision to others. Why should we leave to others the choice of who shall have power and control over our lives?

We have a wonderful freedom to make choices that affect our lives. I urge you to decide now to inform yourself and vote. Every time. It’s a privilege, and it’s our responsibility.



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