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Don’t succumb to electoral passivity: Get involved and vote

By Marion McLaughlin
For the Salisbury Post
Why are our state legislatures and federal Congress so dysfunctional? Look in the mirror. You elected them.
But you say, “I didn’t vote!” Yes, you did, by staying away from the polls. When turnout for local elections is less than 10 percent, you allow special interests to take over. Most of the time these interests are just that, special and not representative of the daily life interests of the population and they do not necessarily reflect majority beliefs.
Democracy is messy and hard work and requires us to pay attention to the real policies of our candidates, not the loudest TV commercials, 30-second sound bites, cable “news” shows or the largest ads. We need to know what policies the candidates really espouse and how they plan to enact them. Sadly, our sources are few, and we need to be willing to research and be able to think critically.
Since more than 10 percent of the people vote in presidential elections, the president chosen more closely reflects who we are as a people. The larger majority of the voters have chosen the person or party that most reflects American beliefs. The problem comes when that president, elected by the majority, comes up against the Congress and state legislatures elected in non-presidential elections by the minority of the voting population.
Federal problems begin at the local and state level. Therefore, our local off-year elections for state leaders are crucial. It is our state legislature, made up of local representatives and senators elected in the 10 percent voter turnout years, that makes the laws that affect our daily lives and our national lives. The party in power in each state is responsible for drawing the lines for our voting districts, and when done cleverly, it “fixes” the outcomes of which party will represent that district in the state and in Washington, D.C.
These state legislatures are responsible for making election laws determining who can and who can’t vote and where and how many polling places there will be and their hours of operation. They determine minimum pay raises; who will and won’t have access to health care; who will and won’t get tax cuts. What will women’s health policies and access to health care be? How will we treat” the least of these, God’s children?
The federal government steps in when state policies are generally illegally restrictive and or deemed unconstitutional. Federal government makes federal voting laws and federal tax structure, and laws affecting commerce. But the federal government is run by people elected by our 10 percent of local voters. If we’ve been careful in our vote and bothered to go to the polls, we will get state and federal governments that more closely reflect our wishes, and are elected by more than 10 percent of our electorate.
Our democracy, our policies and our laws depend on your participation in all elections. They all matter and are important to each of you and your lives. Get involved in your own life and VOTE.

Marion McLaughlin lives in Salisbury.

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