Not Voting = Leaving Power on the Table

By Frances G. Padilla |

Too Many People Are Walking Away from Voting

On my ride home from vacation this summer, our friend who picked us up at the airport got talking about his dissatisfaction with politicians and general skepticism about them doing anything positive to improve conditions.

“I used to vote,” he told us, “but I don’t anymore.  It just doesn’t make a difference who’s in office.  They’re not able to change anything.”

I found myself urging – no, begging him to please vote.  “It does matter,” I told him.  “If one elected official or administration doesn’t get the job done, then we can vote them out and put in another.”

“Please vote,” I implored, “and urge everyone you know to vote.”

What’s at Stake This November 6?

I believe health is a human right (and so does the United Nations, by the way). And, like water and electricity, health care should be considered a public good, regulated by government.

The U.S. Constitution guarantees the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  How does one have any of these without health?

Right now, too many in Washington, DC are working to erode the gains made by the Affordable Care Act.  Access to health coverage and quality care are being cut through regulation, legislation and court decisions.  Women’s reproductive health care is being challenged on multiple fronts.

Health care costs are eating up more and more of our household and government budgets.  Rising out-of-pocket costs are keeping too many of us from getting the care we need.  Too little is being done by our elected leaders to protect us from the bottom line mentality of the health care, prescription drug and insurance industries.

Your Vote Is the First Step in Using Your Power

“So, why does voting matter?” my friend asked me.

Because if we consider the state of our health care (and many other issues) unacceptable, and we exercise our right and responsibility to vote new people into office, we can hold them accountable to represent us and address our needs and concerns.

If we don’t vote, we hand over power to those who do vote.  Every elected official pays attention to who does and does not vote.

Speaking Up is the Second Step in Using Your Power

The other thing I said is that voting on election day is important, but what’s even more important is communicating with politicians after they are elected to tell them what concerns us and that we expect them to do something about it.  The more of us they hear from, the better they’ll listen, and act.

It goes beyond voting; it’s really about what some call “civic engagement”.  This includes understanding how government works.  As important, it is also about understanding history and the lessons it offers to inform current-day events.

Civic Engagement is Also About Doing Something!

What can we each do to become more civically educated and engaged?

How can we make sure our vote makes a difference?

  • Put down our mobile devices, turn off the TV news, look up and talk with each other.
  • Listen to what someone you don’t agree with is saying and ask them questions about their beliefs. Stephen Covey, author of Seven Habits of Highly Effective People said one of those habits is to “seek to understand rather than be understood.”
  • Read about the past. I recently heard Titus Kaphar, an American painter and sculptor reflect on George Washington’s views on slavery, which he learned from reading Washington’s journals.  He left me thinking we need to use our libraries more and how we gain so much understanding from talking with others about what we’ve read.
  • Become informed about the issues that concern us via multiple sources (news articles, documentaries, podcasts, etc.) Check the credibility of those sources. Fact is a great resource.
  • On health care, check out Protect Our Care and its I Vote 4 Health Care campaign. You’ll learn about issues related to access and affordability of health care.  You’ll also learn how you can discuss your concerns on health care with candidates and elected officials and what, working together, can be done to address them.
  • Exercise your right and responsibility to vote. For all my frustrations with the current state of affairs, I have not lost faith in the power of the vote. The more of us do, the more power we will have to make a difference. And power matters.