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Voting: Your Right and Your Duty

 
Did you know that there is a very important election this November?  Midterm elections mean that all the House seats and many of the Senate seats, along with other local positions, are up for grabs.
 
Unfortunately, lots of people don’t vote, particularly in midterm elections.
I am here to implore you to vote. Vote as if the futures of your children depend on it … because they do.
The President is one job. But there are 435 members of the House of Representatives and 100 Senators who determine whether laws are passed; whether Supreme Court Justices are confirmed; and whether current policies remain intact or are dismantled.
 
In many ways, one could argue that those 535 positions matter more than one single President. 
 
Most people have opinions about something political. Whether it’s healthcare, abortion, LGBTQ rights, education, taxation, Social Security, the military (gasp!), religious freedoms, immigration, gun control, medial marijuana, minimum wage, paid maternity leave, welfare benefits, international trade, international alliances, climate change, environmental protections, refugees, the death penalty, vaccines, GMOs, student loans … no one is untouched by politics.
 
So the next time you hear anyone say, “it doesn’t really affect me,” show them this list and ask them to pick one. (Or do it yourself, if you think politics don’t affect you.)
 
Do you want your children to eat food that has pesticides and carcinogens in it? Of course not. So go vote for the policy makers who will ensure that there are regulations in place to protect them. I also think it sends a powerful message to our children by voting.

We are teaching our children that every voice matters and that with citizenship comes responsibility.

I have heard people say, “my vote doesn’t count.” But it does. Every vote counts. Because if someone loses by 1200 votes, that means 1200 more people came out for that candidate than for the opponent. Those 1200 votes counted. And if 1199 of them said, “my vote doesn’t count, I’m not going to go vote,” then it would have been even closer. Every vote counts.
 
I am a broken record, but I don’t care.
 
As military, I’m sure you all have a lot of questions surrounding voter registration with frequent moves. Along with license plates, drivers licenses, homes of record, and billing zip codes, voter registration doesn’t always have to line up with where you currently live.
I personally think we should always register to vote where we are currently stationed. After all, what good does it do to vote on an election that has no bearing on your immediate life? If the governor of the state in which you are currently residing passes a ridiculous bill, you can’t do anything about it in the next election if you are registered to vote elsewhere. When there is a school board election and your children are directly affected by their decisions, why wouldn’t you vote?
 

I recently voted YES to increase taxes so that my children can get a new elementary school. If I wasn’t registered to vote here, along with many other military moms, our kids may be stuck in 70-year-old schools for another few years. 

If you want to voice your opinion, you have to vote. If you don’t vote, you don’t get to complain.

I have heard people complain about XYZ issue only to later admit, “well I didn’t vote in the last election.” Midterm elections are where it matters. If you are upset about an issue, look at where the Congress members representing your state stand on that issue, and vote accordingly.
 
Did they vote for a policy you stand firmly against? Go out and vote for the opponents.
 
Did they support a policy that you feel is important? Go vote to keep them in office.
 
So if you don’t vote in the next election, then when the next school shooting happens (don’t be naive; it’s a matter of when, not if….) then when you have an opinion about the second amendment versus gun legislation, you don’t get to get outraged if you have done nothing to put the right policymakers in office. 
 
I probably sound like I’m ranting. I am. There are so many active issues at stake right now, and while it is polarizing, it also can be an impetus to engaging citizens in the voting process.
I appreciate when people share or post on social media or protest. But if you don’t vote, all of that is a waste. 
Start by checking to see if you are registered. If you are not, take the steps to register. If you are still having trouble, contact your local or state board of elections and find out what you need to do.
Do it today. I recently read that if you want to vote in the General Election in our current state, voter registration must be in the mail by October 12.
If you opt to maintain an out-of-state registration or are currently overseas, you need an absentee ballot. Being out of the area on Election Day is no excuse for not exercising your right to vote. We voted when we were stationed in Germany, and my husband has voted during two deployments. It is not an impossible task and should be a priority. 
 
There are numerous policies that affect us directly as military family members: alliances, budgets, pay raises, Tricare rules, retirement benefits, spousal professional licensure transportability, and in-state tuition for military dependents, to name a few. It is our responsibility to be informed about these issues, contact our representatives, and vote accordingly.
 
However, there may be times that we have a conflict: one candidate may strongly fight for the military but stand on the opposite side of another issue that I find to be important. In those situations, we have to weigh what is more important to us as individuals.
 
In the past, I have found myself voting for the person urging cuts in military spending in favor of spending that money elsewhere — in a way I found to be more beneficial to citizens overall. There are obviously no perfect candidates, but at the end of the day I stand by my choices to hopefully make the country better. 
 
Vote. It is your right and your duty. 
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