The Importance Of The American Vote

THE WILD WEB

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United States citizens, voting age adults, seek excitement, immediacy and quick responses. Action, everything from movies to video games to sporting events, grabs our attention.

An ad currently running on television portrays two weird musicians who have a fanatical commitment to their cause, whatever it is. The ad ends with the message, "They'll vote. Shouldn't you?" Consider this: 1) if we don't vote in November, we won't get another chance for two to four years; 2) people whose ideas we don't share will vote; and 3) the laws that take effect in the next four years because of who was elected will have far more repercussions on our lives than the rules of a video game or a sporting event.

Fierce commitment to a cause or a candidate will turn into a vote. We can't take it for granted that enough other reasonable people will vote to keep our system of government in balance. The Internet gives us the tools, including position papers by national and local candidates, to become excited because we know who's who and what's what, and we'll become aware that who is elected will cause a lasting effect on our lives, if not an immediate one.

Our system of elections, in itself, brings little excitement, no immediacy and no visible, immediate impact - not exactly what our forefathers intended. They carefully drafted a system where the ruling party in the House of Representatives might not be the ruling party in the Senate or the party of the President. They also provided for elections at pre-determined intervals, a system that encouraged more stability and less spontaneity than the British Parliamentary style of government where elections occurred whenever the ruling party lost its vote of confidence.

That stability causes office holders to begin a re-election campaign no later than the mid-point of their terms. It provides constant contentiousness between parties. It causes citizens to tire of signs, mailed ads and television spots long before the date of the election.

The common reasons for not voting include: How can I know all the candidates and choose between them? How can I trust any politician? What difference will my vote make?

We're stuck with a cumbersome, boring system of elections and political campaigns, but are we going to let that defeat us? Aren't we adult enough and responsible enough to take part in the process even if it doesn't offer the fun and immediate response that games provide?

For most of us, newspapers are our major source of election information. If we miss the paper on any day, however, we lose the information. The Internet, though, is making it easier to obtain the information we need to make wise choices and join the game, and it's available at any time.

At the Arizona Secretary of State's Web site, http://www.sosaz.com/election/VoterRegistration.htm, voters wishing to switch party affiliation and new voters can print out a voter registration application to mail in or request that one be sent in the mail to them. At the home page, http://www.sosaz.com/, we can link to a list of candidates and then to individual candidate's Web sites. We can also read the 2000 Publicity Pamphlet online, as well as a list of $10,000 and above contributions to ballot measures, voter registration totals and campaign contributions.

A nonprofit, nonpartisan site sponsored by the Markle Foundation and headed by a Democrat and a Republican, offers information on local and national candidates, news sources, and online events. Its site is http://www.webwhiteblue.org/. We can read articles from 17 or more national news sources with differing viewpoints. The most helpful link on the site, though, allows us to enter an address and view a pop-up screen giving local candidates with a link to information on a candidate's position on issues such as abortion, gun control and health care. Project Vote Smart provides the data from respondents to its survey.

Think of it this way. Voting is another way of "watching each other's backs."

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