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Monday, October 24, 2016

If I Had My Way

Today I cast my vote in the presidential election, as well as voting for a congressional representative and state candidates, plus a number of local bond issues.

I like the fact my state has early voting, so I don't have to wait in a long line on election day. As it was, I arrived at the polling place just 10 minutes after it opened and still had to wait in a fairly long line. But the entire process took just 18 minutes from the time I got in line until the time I walked out the door.

People in other countries have quite literally died for the right to vote. They have faced intimidation and even death for the right to cast a ballot. Elections in some countries are anything but free and fair. Yet many in the United States swear they will sit out this year's election because they don't like any of the major candidates for the presidency. The stakes for our country are, in my opinion, higher than they have ever been. Each of us citizens needs to make our voice heard.
  
The seemingly mundane task of voting is, after all, a cornerstone of our elective government. I cannot in good conscience refuse to cast a ballot just because I am disappointed in this year's candidates. I often ask if this is the best we can do in a nation of more than 300 million people. Never in our history have the major candidates been so disliked by so many people.

I know people are disenchanted by our elected officials. I feel the same way. I feel that the voice of the 'little people' like me isn't being heard. Only those with great wealth and influence seem to have any sway over our government. I am angry about many things our government does or does not do. But exercising our right to cast a vote for or against may just make a difference. If we don't vote, we have no room to complain about the outcome. If we ever hope to change the way our government operates, we must start at the ballot box.

If I had my way, we would have term limits for all elected officials at all levels. We have term limits for the president; why not for members of Congress? "Vote them out if you don't like them," people say. If only voting someone out of office were that easy. Once in office, they quickly garner the power and resources from lobbyists and corporate donors that make it nearly impossible to vote them out of office. Remember a few years ago when a new crop of representatives swept into office, vowing to end 'business as usual'? What these seemingly well-intentioned novices quickly learned was that if they didn't play by the rules, nothing would get done. No one would support their legislation. It was either play by the rules or go home.

If I had my way, the political campaign season would last but a few weeks, as it does in the United Kingdom. We would not be subjected for many months to the barrage of television ads and mailers that tell us nothing about what the candidate plans to do for us average  people, but that merely attack the opponent. 

If I had my way, the moderator of every debate would have the authority, and be required to, turn off the microphone of any candidate that goes over the allotted time allowed to respond to a question. 

If I had my way, debates would be for the purpose of explaining to the voting public what the candidate's plans are to address a given issue. I'm tired of debates being nothing more than a forum for slinging mud at and insulting one's opponent.  

The 2016 election will be over in two weeks. I think the nation will breathe a collective sigh of relief when that happens. I hope we will continue our more than 200-year-old tradition of a peaceful transfer of power, and that while there undoubtedly will be disappointment, I hope there are no riots or violent protests. I hope this year's election sees a record turnout by voters. We owe it to ourselves, to our descendants and to our country to let our voice be heard, regardless of the outcome.