Amy Gehrt: Your vote counts this Election Day
Election Day is fast approaching — a fact of which you are no doubt aware, as political ads flood the airwaves, campaign messages clog your social media feeds and email inboxes, and candidates (often with their politically connected friends in tow) rack up mileage pressing the flesh at rallies, meet-and-greets and fundraisers.
And while many voters tend to dismiss the midterm elections — about 40 percent of eligible voters typically cast ballots, a drop-off of about 15 to 20 percent, when compared to a presidential election year — staying home from the polls could be a costly mistake.
There are a number of key races on the Nov. 4 ballot. Voters in 36 states will be electing governors, and, according to the HuffPost Pollster numbers, nine of those — Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan and Wisconsin — are separated by toss-up margins of three points or less.
Three others — Alaska, Georgia and Rhode Island — are added to the group when the margin is raised to three to four points.
There are also 36 U.S. Senate seats up for grabs this election, and who wins those contests could shift the balance in Congress. According to Nate Silver’s statistics-driven FiveThirtyEight Senate forecast, Republicans currently have a 63.9 percent chance of wresting away control from the Democrats. That would give the GOP control of both houses of Congress.
It seems strange to me that the Republican obstructionism, led by the childish “If I can’t get my way, I’m taking my ball and going home” tea partiers might actually be rewarded. Are voters so short-sighted they’ve forgotten all of the budget battles that brought our country to the brink time and again because these clowns couldn’t compromise one iota?
Many haven’t, of course, but while the increasingly angry conservative base will head to the polls in droves, those who hold more moderate or liberal views aren’t expected to cast ballots in as large of numbers.
That’s somewhat surprising to me. After all, millions of Americans are benefitting from Obamacare. For the first time in this nation’s history, gay couples can marry in more states than they cannot. Women, too, have gained rights. Pay equity is closer to reality, we have more control over our reproductive rights, and the Dems have made raising the minimum wage — an issue that disproportionately impacts women — a priority, despite vocal GOP opposition.
And while progress has certainly been made, there is more work to be done. Do we really want a Republican-controlled Congress at the helm when the U.S. is making policy on issues such as climate change, immigration and civil rights issues? Do we want them to hold up important appointments to key posts?
It certainly would have been nice to have a surgeon general to lead the Ebola response, but President Barack Obama’s nominee has been caught in Congressional gridlock since late 2013, due to objections by conservatives — and one of their all-important, moneyed lobbying groups.
A seat or two may also open up on the U.S. Supreme Court in the next couple of years. And if you’ve been paying attention to their big rulings at all, you know the outcome frequently comes down to one “swing” vote. With a host of important issues likely to come before the nation’s high court, does anyone doubt any Obama nominees would also be held up in the confirmation process indefinitely?
By all accounts, the outcome of the midterm election hinges on the turnout of women, minorities and young people. Conservative media has been targeting young women in particular this election cycle, with some even questioning whether young women should serve on jury duty or even be allowed to vote at all.
Media Matters for America, a nonprofit progressive media watchdog group, reports that Kimberly Guilfoyle of Fox News’ “The Five” said during the Oct. 21 show that young women “lack life experience and just ‘don’t get it.’ Instead, she said, they should ‘go back on Tinder or Match.com.’”
Bill O’Reilly made even more offensive comments about women in general on his Oct. 20 Talking Points Memo segment, relying on that misogynistic go-to that basically amounts to “Oh, silly women can’t help but be led by their emotions, so best to just stick to cooking and cleaning and leave the voting to the menfolk.”
Want to prove them wrong? Study up on the issues and candidates, then cast an informed vote. You don’t have to love every candidate you choose to exercise your civic duty — sometimes picking the lesser of the two evils is enough.
And remember, if you don’t like who’s running, you can get involved and help change things from the inside ... maybe even run for office yourself. But staying home and not voting only hands victory to the very people who want you to stay away from the polls. And if they don’t want you to vote, that should tell you all that you need to know about their motivations, and whether they can be trusted to make decisions that impact us all.
Pekin Times city editor Amy Gehrt may be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter at @AmyGehrt.