Vital task Exercise your right to vote in November

October 11, 2010
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One of the greatest freedoms our country offers is the unrestricted right to express our opinion in the voting booth. While it often seems that every time we turn around there is another election — whether for local, school, state or federal issues — it means we have an opportunity to express ourselves often in this country.

Many feel that their single voice does not make a difference so they choose to muffle it by not voting. But when we do not speak, how can we claim victory or complain when what we want is not implemented?

Since our nation was founded on individual rights, freedoms AND responsibilities, perhaps we should make a concerted effort to be responsible this year by voting for individuals we deem qualified to lead our state and country.

Whenever we have an opportunity to vote, we are given an opportunity to either endorse the direction that our country (or state) is moving or to seek to change it. This November offers us the opportunity to participate in a rare “mid-term election” that might truly make a difference in our daily lives.

Primaries throughout the country indicate that “the people” want change they thought they were getting in the last general election. Whether an incumbent speaks for the people or not seems not to matter this year — it is a year of transition in which being in the right place at the wrong time may result in a “clean sweep” of those in office. As you approach this opportunity to express yourself, do not take it lightly.

At stake this year are our state’s leadership and several representative seats in Washington. Indirectly, decisions such as Supreme Court judgeship (both state and federal courts), health care, unemployment compensation and energy policy are at stake as all the candidates seem to support different aspects of these factors. Major issues that will have a significant impact on the way we live and work in Michigan are being debated by candidates seeking your support — though some seem to speak with authoritative substance while others offer accusations and blame.

Choosing not to vote is not a “silent protest”; it is a blatant disregard for the freedom we have been given to express our views within a system that all too often closes out the opinions of private citizens.

I have seen “big government” first hand through my participation in the National Association of Manufacturers’ Human Resources Policy Steering Committee and on various national health care committees and initiatives. I have interacted with government officials enough to know that an individual voice can rarely speak loudly enough to influence an official once elected.

Though local leadership may represent their own communities well, they can act only upon what they can afford — and as long as monetary decisions are being made by “big government” outside of our region, we must be vigilant that the individuals making decisions truly represent their constituencies. Knowing this — and how difficult it is to influence legislation once the legislator is in place — reaffirms my belief that each vote — each voter’s opinion — can make a difference. When given the opportunity to speak this November, talk with your vote. Do not remain a passive spectator to the action that is unfolding in front of you; be an active participant in the formation and implementation of life-changing agendas.

Whether you consider yourself Democrat, Republican or Independent — liberal or conservative — you are provided the right to express your personal opinions within the voting booth. Far too many of us, however, choose not to exercise our right to voice an opinion.

Of those who do vote, many act on the suggestion or recommendation of another — be it a friend, a union, a church or a newspaper article — rather than upon solid information gathered through individual research.

Begin early this year to research each candidate. Look into what each candidate has accomplished in the past to make sure that past actions validate what he or she is saying they will do for you tomorrow. Believe only promises that can be verified through an individual’s previous actions.

Vote with your head and your heart this year — looking into each candidate and issue thoroughly for yourself so that you can make an informed decision — rather than being swept along by the crowd.

Your vote can make a difference  — as can NOT voting. Rather than continuing to suffer in silence, let your actions shout from the voting booth to make a lasting difference. As stated so aptly by Michigan native Madonna in one of her earlier works, take the time to “express yourself, don’t repress yourself” this November.

You may or may not end up being part of the solution but at least you will no longer be part of the problem.

David J. Smith is president and CEO of The Employers’ Association, a not-for-profit provider of human resources solutions since 1939.

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