Today — Sept. 27 — is National Voter Registration Day, a day designed to focus on the very basis of democracy: public participation.
In a democracy, power is vested in the people. But to exert that power, people must vote. And despite enormous efforts on the part of multiple local, regional and national organizations to increase public participation in our electoral system, this is not the case. Far too many of our neighbors, friends and colleagues aren’t registered to vote. And too many of those who are registered, don’t vote.
Often, folks believe that their political voice doesn’t count; that it doesn’t matter or make a difference to them personally. The challenge, then: How to inspire people to register and vote?
The cold, hard facts are that the very people who shy away from participation in electoral politics are very likely the ones whose lives will be affected most directly and immediately by election results. For instance, heads of households who are least likely to vote, have to live with the governmental policies and decisions made by elected officials they didn’t choose. At the local and state level, politics shape our lives on a daily basis.
Clearly, every voice matters. But only if it’s heard.
Arizonans are also faced with ballot issues this election season — issues that will have a significant impact on our families, the future of our children, and Arizona’s economy. Proposition 205, the Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act (legalizing recreational marijuana) and Proposition 206, the Fair Wages and Healthy Families Act (minimum wage), have the capacity to change our state. Every vote for or against these propositions is important.
The following are strategies to help convince non-voters to become voters.
My vote doesn’t count. Not true! Many elections are very close, especially in state and local races.
In 2014, two important races in Southern Arizona – one for a seat in Congress, and another in the Arizona Legislature – were determined by fewer than 175 votes. And just this month, after two weeks of “counting” and assessing ballots, the courts declared a winner by 27 votes in the Congressional District 5 Republican primary election. Just 27 votes between who moves on and who doesn’t.
My vote doesn’t matter. Outcomes don’t affect me. No? What DO you care about? What’s important to you and your family? Better schools? All-day kindergarten? Mental-health services? Potholes? Child-care costs? These and many other issues that have an impact on local families are decided by the officials we elect every two or four years.
The League of Women Voters of Greater Tucson, the YWCA of Southern Arizona and 23 other community groups have been working since early summer to harness the collective efforts to register and educate voters about the electoral process.
Get Out the Vote partners will celebrate their successes and share best practices Tuesday, Sept. 27 on National Voter Registration Day. They’ll continue registering voters till the Oct. 10 deadline, encouraging people to vote until election day, Nov. 8.
These partners – nonprofit agencies, faith-based organizations and business alliances – and the thousands of individuals involved in each, are on the front lines to urge more Arizonans to register to vote and to make their voices heard on Election Day. Join us.