By Elizabeth Bartheld
Vice President, Government Affairs
Are you ready for some… VOTING? The start of fall brings with it
nice cool days, leaves changing from green to red, October baseball
playoffs, and football season. But this year, fall also means it’s
election time—decision time.
On Nov. 4, Americans will elect 435 members of the House of Representatives, 36
Senators, 36 Governors, and countless state and local officials. The outcomes of these elections will determine who represents each and every one of us and what policy issues are prioritized by our government moving forward.
For over 200 years, our system of government has served as a model for democracies around the world. We are a nation founded on the right of citizens to elect their representatives. There was a time in this country when people fought for, held hunger strikes to, and risked their lives for the right to vote.
Unfortunately, today, only about half of those eligible in the United States regularly use his or her most powerful tool: the right to vote. This means HALF of us decide who represents ALL of us.
Many citizens do not vote because they do not understand what a large impact each individual vote can have. Consider this: in the 2000 Michigan 8th Congressional District race, Mike Rogers won by only 111 votes.
Also in the 2000 presidential election, if George Bush had won 2 percent more votes, he would have won Wisconsin, New Mexico, Iowa and Oregon. With 2 percent more votes, Al Gore would have won Florida and New Hampshire. With 2 percent more votes in any one of these states, the legislative landscape could have been drastically changed.
Although increased voter participation will not eliminate the chance of close elections, it will ensure that more voters help decide who will lead our local, state and federal governments. Increased voter participation can and will improve how our system performs for each of us.
No one can vote for you except YOU. More and more, states are adjusting their voting laws and procedures to better accommodate the diverse electorate. More than 30 states, plus the District of Columbia, now offer a form of early voting in person. You may also contact your State’s Secretary of State or Director of Elections to request an absentee ballot and mail in your vote.
AF&PA offers its members and industry workers and allies a number of tools to be informed about elections and voting requirements. State specific information on the voting process and how to register are available at AF&PA’s Grow the Vote website.
At AF&PA, we are not only encouraging our industry’s employees to get out and vote, but to also become informed voters. We track our industry supporters on our Grow the Vote website: our scorecards help educate voters on legislation affecting the paper and wood products manufacturing sectors. Many other groups have similar websites to ensure voters are informed on the issues that matter the most to them. We encourage you to check out the many resources that are available so you can cast your vote on election day for the candidates you think best represent your views.
People fail to vote for many different reasons—lack of awareness, apathy, confusion, or the belief that “my vote won’t make a difference.” On Nov. 4, 2014, do your best to become an informed voter and vote. You can make a difference in the lives of your family, your community and the industry in which we work. Remember, every vote counts!