November 2017

Stand Up and Vote

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“No taxation without representation” was the rallying cry during the colonies’ struggle for independence. Thousands of citizens, and in particular soldiers, endured unimaginable hardships and risked their lives and fortunes for the right to self govern. Reflect on all the wars in which countless ordinary citizens have fought and died to preserve that right not only for ourselves but for others. Then look at the percentage of people who cast a vote in any given election. It is shameful. One hears many excuses for why some don’t vote: “My one vote doesn’t matter;” “I’m too busy;” “My spouse and I offset each other’s vote” or the increasingly popular “They’re all crooks anyway, so what difference does it make?” Would you like to offer any one of those excuses to someone whose loved one died for your right to cast a ballot? Each time you fail to vote, you dishonor our heritage and our democratic fabric frays a little more. Although Suffield did very well in the last presidential election with a turnout of 85% (7713 voting out of 9125 eligible), only 52% of voters cast a ballot in either of the two primaries.

Each time you fail to vote, you dishonor our heritage and our democratic fabric frays a little more.

Ironically, on the local level where one can argue your vote has more leverage, the percentage of eligible voters is particularly disappointing. In Suffield during the 2015 municipal election, only 48% of those 7910 registered voters bothered to vote. Even fewer (31%) voted in the Democratic primary for First Selectman. Even more disturbing is that only 29% voted in the referendum on road repair, town hall and Bridge Street School renovations. Likewise, for the special election for State Representative in our district, only 26% voted! Only one out of five people thought it important enough to vote for the person representing us in Hartford. Those people running are your neighbors – people you see every day and to whom you can voice your opinion on matters that affect you, your safety, your children’s education, your pocketbook and the quality of life in this town. Your responsibility, however is to be informed on the issues and to know what the person you select stands for. At a minimum, read the Observer’s Voter’s Guide. Go to commission and board meetings or read the minutes of those meetings on the town website. Call candidates with questions about their views on issues important to you. Unfortunately we no longer have a League of Women Voters branch in town, as that organization served to host lively debates among those running for significant town offices. It was a good way to get the measure of the candidates.

After the election, keep informed about what is going on and remember that those elected are your neighbors trying to do what they think is best for us all. Feel free to question them, but be civil in your remarks and behavior.

Finally, do at least the minimum required of a good citizen and vote. Our democracy requires citizen participation. Let’s have an exemplary turnout and remember, if you don’t vote, you don’t have a right to complain.

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