Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Do you have an opinion?

With election day approaching, this seems like a good time to mount my voting soapbox.  First, a disclaimer: I honestly don't care how you vote, but I do care whether you vote.  

I find folks are frequently willing to engage in political banter about who is and isn't doing what at the local, state and national level.  They'll share their thoughts on the current or former president and what he ought to be doing.  However, an enormous percentage of the population doesn't vote.  They opine, but only in guarded conversations.  They don't actually get up, take themselves to the polls and vote.

In my humble opinion, YOUR opinion doesn't count - and it doesn't matter to me - unless you've voted.  That is where we can debate politics - at the polls.  If you debate with me verbally without voting, it's pointless.

All this to say that I rarely express my political opinion or respond to such debates, because I prefer to make my two cents count where it counts - again, ad nauseum - at the polls.

I hope that everyone participates in the big elections, but the small ones matter too.  Local school millage, city council positions, mayoral races and the like all matter, and voter turnout is appallingly low.  There is a great local, nonpartisan resource provided by the NWA Emerging Leaders Political & Government Affairs Workgroup here for individuals to learn more about candidates and upcoming races in a nonpartisan format.  However, lack of knowledge (I just moved to town, I don't know the candidates) is a poor excuse.  It's up to all of us to educate ourselves, and there is no reason to be shocked that an election of any magnitude is going on if you watch or read the news or stay moderately informed.  Find a source of information and use it to be sure that days for voting are on your calendar.

Last but not least, this should be relatively painless!  Early voting is a genius opportunity.  While my actual voting location is quite a ways from my home and I would undoubtedly stand in line with others if I went there after work on election day, it's never an issue - because I always early vote.  In literally five minutes I can be out my front door, in the county offices on Poplar in downtown Rogers, vote and get on with my day.  I stood in line once for early voting - and that was during the most recent presidential election.  Normally I can be in and out in less time than it would take to sit at some stoplights.

Which brings me to my final tirade: I constantly hear people say "I wish they would fix this intersection," or "Why don't they time these lights?"  Guess what?  They = you.  If you don't vote, get engaged, stay aware of issues affecting your community and stay in the loop on the plans that your city has for such improvements (really, can every street in town be repaired at once?  It takes time and thoughtful planning!), then you haven't the right to complain.  I'm not lecturing - I constantly catch myself close to muttering such things and give myself a mental slap on the wrist.  Don't complain - do.  Vote.  Learn.  Read.

Your first action item: for the November 2 elections (including local mayoral races), new voter registration must be postmarked 30 days prior to the voting day.  Today is September 29, which means that you have today and tomorrow to pick up and submit your voter registration forms if (gasp!) you aren't already registered or have recently moved.  Here's everything you could possibly need to know to register in Arkansas (

Don't put it off.  If not now, when?  If not you, who?

Dismounting soapbox.

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