Decide To Vote (Commentary, 9/10/2010)

The election season officially kicked off this past Labor Day. Looking forward to election day, I have an anecdote.

When I worked in a photo lab many years ago, I was in process control. I would run test strips and chart the results. If a process looked like it was running outside of limits, I had to make a decision.

Here were the choices I was taught:

  1. I can decide to take action.
  2. I can decide NOT to take action.
  3. I can decide to wait and see if things get better or worse.

One option I did NOT have was indecision, because indecision caused me to do nothing, and doing nothing was exactly like deciding not to act.

And that’s the lesson.

Here’s where that lesson applies: In voting.

Remember that Houston light rail – a multibillion dollar project — was approved by a majority of less than 10% of the registered voters. So about 5% of us made a decision that we will all be paying for and living with for decades; probably until at least the 22nd century.

Here are some other interesting statistics.

In 1960, about 65% of eligible adults were registered to vote, and only 63% of eligible adults actually voted in the presidential election, and that was the best turnout in the past 50 years.

IN 2008, 50 years later, the number of eligible adults registered to vote has climbed to nearly 80%, but still, fewer than 57% of them actually voted for president.

So the registration numbers have improved dramatically, but the turnout numbers for presidential elections are stuck in the high 50s and low 60s, percentage-wise, for at least the past half century.

For off-year elections – like this one – turnouts are much worse: Typically in the high 30% range. And that’s the problem.

In the past decade, we’ve seen important elections totaling tens of thousands of votes decided buy a few hundred hotly contested ballots. Sometimes the difference has come down to dozens.

We can no longer be lazy on voting day and tell ourselves that our single vote doesn’t matter. It does. It might decide an election.

Now, remember at the beginning of this commentary I told you about my days in process control, and how there’s no such thing as a non-decision? Well, the same thing is true in voting.

Not bothering to vote is like voting. You’re just giving your vote to someone more motivated. Refusing to vote as a form of protest is exactly the same thing. You’re actually letting someone else decide for you.

Sometimes people tell themselves that they’re not voting FOR someone, they’re actually voting AGAINST someone else. Well, no … You’re actually voting FOR them. At least, that’s how the ballots will be counted.

Don’t tell yourself that it doesn’t matter to you who’s elected.

If you have a job or don’t, pay taxes or are retired, make minimum wage or are a salaried employee, there are all kinds of things your elected representatives do that make your life easier or harder.

And for people who tell themselves that it really doesn’t matter, because all politicians are the same and there’s no real difference between the parties? Those people need to know that there is actually a political and ideological war going on in this country today, and elections are deciding the future direction of this nation, and are literally fighting for its soul.

In business, there’s an old saying: 90% of your complaints come from 10% of your customers. That’s because anger and frustration are strong motivators, but satisfaction or indifference are not.

Remember! This election day, YOUR future is being decided. Don’t let someone else decide it for you!

Vote! Know that you participated in the choice. Before the election, try to get involved. Volunteer your time. Donate whatever money you can to a candidate of your choice or a party of your choice, whether it’s a thousand dollars or just five.

Someone else gets to choose your boss. In a democracy, elections let YOU choose your government.

The magic of getting everyone to vote is that it takes power away from motivated minorities. Usually, motivated minorities are dangerous. And in any case, you don’t want them to be the boss of you.

So vote! Vote early and avoid lines and crowds. Mail in your ballot if you have trouble getting to a polling place. Call your local party headquarters if you need a ride to a polling place. Call the Harris County Clerk for information on absentee voting.

I’ll put some information up on my website within the next few days I’ve created a new page for this information to make it easier to find. Click on the “Political Information and Resources” tab.  I’ve added links to various voting information organizations and political parties there.

Remember that anything you do on voting day equals a decision. Decide to vote.

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About ThinkWingRadio

Mike Honig is originally from Brooklyn, New York. He moved to Houston in September of 1977 and has been there ever since. Mike's interests are politics, history, science, science fiction (and reading generally), technology, and almost anything else. Mike has knowledge and experience in many diverse fields, sometimes from having worked in them, and sometimes from extensive reading or discussion about them. Mike's general knowledge makes him a favorite partner in Trivial Pursuit. He likes to say that about most things, he knows enough to be dangerous. Humility is a work-in-progress.

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