Voting, first of all is important. There I said it. It’s something that this time of year is pushed and pushed to try and get as many people to participate and voice their opinion in who can, and will, take office. The people running, and there are many, make ads, campaign, and do interviews and debates, all trying to win votes of all Americans across the board. When they first start, they start small with a few votes and endorsements here and there. They work their way up to more and more people, looking more towards a group of people. The people falling in these groups can be entire districts, certain businesses, and a certain class of people. They target people they think will vote for them, who will put them in the position of power that they want.
When they start their journey into politics, they want to make a change. They want different rules and laws and regulations to be passed for many different reason. When they first start, they start selfishly; for their own personal reasons and desires for change, not necessarily for a large group of people. Maybe something happened to them in the past that shaped the way they look at certain rules, because it hurt them in some way. Some want the office because they feel with the power they can make a change for the better because if they have the power to do so. And then there are the few that want office for the person gain that they so desperately want and will do anything to get.
As someone who lives in the United States, being above the age of 18, and meeting certain qualifications, that means you can vote. You can vote for someone to be in an elected official position who, based on what you believe in and what you would like to see happen in your state, to represent you in the highest courts in the land. These are the people who make and push bills and laws through different channels on your behalf in order to try and make where-ever you live a better place in some way shape or form. Thinking of them in the way that they are a megaphone shouting your opinions on your behalf. Of course you won’t agree with every single thing that say or propose, but you have to pick the person that at the end of the day pushed for change in the things that are important to you.
When you hear of our elected leaders pushing for certain high profile topics, such as legalizing and decriminalization of marijuana, you may think they are a bad or good person for that based on what you know and believe. But what many people don’t know is that there is a lot of different things in the work, some big, some small, that do make an impact on you; maybe not now, but in the future. They can affect you, your family, your neighbors, even your friends.
A good example of this is in 2016 when the state of Illinois passed the Silver Search Task Force (SB 1846/PA 99-0322). This is for people over the age of 21, who are believed to have Alzheimer’s or dementia related issues, and works with Law Enforcement in order to get the people who do not know who or where they are to get home safely. This is something that happens quite often and is something that even I did not know about until more recently, while reading an article about an older gentleman who walked out of his home and was reported missing. This, along with Amber Alerts, are very important to make sure the missing people are returned home safely.
A more fun law that was passed in Illinois in 2016, is that effective on January 1st of that year, pumpkin pie was officially named the state pie. That in my opinion is very important, especially around Thanksgiving.
The people we decide to vote for, to be elected, to be our voice is not something that should be taken lightly or rushed by any means. Doing a bit of research, looking at ads, listening to debates and the news are all fantastic ways to get your feet wet before election day comes. When you step into your local polling place, you should have a little bit of an idea of not only who is up for election, but also the different proposals they put on the ballot. Going into a polling place and simply marking the box for a democrat or republican solely based on the party they are running under is no way to vote, in my opinion.
Being a republican or a democrat in the US in 2018 is a way we have divided ourselves as a nation. People have come to believe that once you declare yourself to one of the parties that you can’t in the future change your mind or that you cant vote for someone of the opposing party. That is false. Defining for yourself which party you go along with, based on that parties history, what they have done for our country with laws and rules, and who has been with what party, is a way that many people see how the political spectrum and how it works.
The political spectrum is something that many experts refer to when talking about which political party people in the US fall under. You can be more right-winged Republican, more left-winged Democrat, or you could fall more in the middle and be considered a Libertarian. But what does that actually mean? Where do you fall as a citizen and voter? Is it true that you cant be a Democrat with Republican views?
The spectrum is something that was made up to help visualize where people who have different views and ideals fall. Every single person in our country has their own thoughts, ideas, and morals; everyone was brought up in different ways that help shape who we are and what we believe in. The spectrum is something, in my mind, as something that can and does move and grow with people. I think that as you grow and mature, your ideas change. They move from what you grew up learning from family, is influenced by new people in your life, such as friends and co-workers, and is shaped by your life events. It pushes you, even if it is just slightly, to the left or right based on who is in office and who is running for office.
This by no way shape or form defines who you are. It is a representation of who you are as a person and what you believe should happen with the people in our country. Though many do not share these ideas out loud very often for fear of rejection, it is more common in our country today to have people who have complete opposite views and ideas be from the same family and live under the same roof. This is everyones given right as an American, but can cause a lot of issues and put a strain on relationships. There have been times even in my life where I didn’t completely agree with the people who raised me and what they say, and thats okay.
The left end of the spectrum is dedicated to the Democrats. These are the people who believe everyone should have a voice, people should have more freedoms than not, and tend to believe in more liberalistic points of view. In more recent years some famous politicians, such as Hilary Clinton and Barak Obama, have been very active and have made their voice heard on what they believe to be true.
The right end of the spectrum is the Republican side, who tend to be more conservative in their views and opinions, who believe in more regulation of our people. In more recent years, some famous Republicans have been Donald Trump and Paul Ryan, who have also made their voices heard and share what they believe.
At the end of the day, these parties tend to not mean much. In all honesty, I have no idea which I identify with more, because as I learned more and heard more and more stories, and have more and more experiences in the “real world,” it has shown me that I know some, but not a lot. I am sure that I know what I stand for as a person and as an American. I know my values, I know whats important to me, I know what I feel — but trying to find a political who I relate to and who voices the opinions of the people and what we believe in is a hard thing for me.
The first time I was able to vote was in 2015. I was so overwhelmed with the different job titles, what they really did, how they would affect me, and who the people running really were. It was overwhelming to say the least. I made the mistake by not looking into the different people running and what they stood for; I mainly went off of ads. Obviously ads are biased, they’re meant to be. They want to show how bad their opponent is in order to win; point out big and small negative aspects of a person, show what they have or haven’t done in their political career, and show the public who the “ideal” candidate is.
Going into the polling place, which was my middle school, I felt empowered — like I was going to really make a change. I’ll admit, I felt super cool being able to vote, to be a responsible citizen making a contribution. It felt awesome. I went with my then boyfriend, who in no way shape or form knew what was going on and didn’t vote with me or at all, was more concerned with standing in line. I was more worried with if I was doing the right thing.
When it came time for the results of the race, my choice didn’t win. To say I was heart broken is the correct way to express how I felt. I felt like I had lost. I felt like my voice didn’t count. I know now that it did, but there were just more people who agreed with the other “side.” I still have my first voting sticker. I keep them all on my bulletin board above my desk to remind myself that my voice does matter, that my vote is going somewhere, that I have rights. Even in the smaller positions on the ballot are important. These are the people who control where our community, or state, or countries taxes go, what they do, how they can help. You never want to pick someone based on their ads, you want to base it on that feeling you get in your stomach that tells you if what you’re doing in the right thing.
For me, when I see an ad for someone up for election, I google them. I ask questions; I find out by their websites, the way they talk and act, and their past work, whatever it may be, and I think of questions that I want answers to. Many people are afraid to ask, but anyone that wants to be in office should answer any and all questions you have, thats their job — what they’re telling the people what they can do. When doing my research I like to look at their websites, read any blogs on them, ask questions to people who may know the answers, and look at the position that they are running for and what they would be responsible for. Based on what I learn is how I make my decision.
This year, I urge you to vote. It’s free, it’s more important than you may think, and your voice is wanted and needed. If you don’t like what is happening in our country today, make a change, voice your opinion. Spending an hour doing research before the deadline can help you in many ways — not only by being a better, more informed citizen, but to make sure that the decision you are making is what you are proud of and standing behind. Being informed is important, voting is important, voting for what you believe in is important. If you can’t vote for yourself, vote for your kids and what you want the world to be for them; vote for your parents who might lose their house based on new laws and people in power; vote for your coworker who can’t afford their insulin that helps keep them alive anymore. Voting affects everyone at every age for years and years to come, make sure you’re making the best decision for you and what you believe, and most importantly – VOTE.