This week I’m taking a break from the usual photography and travel articles I post on this blog. Since the U.S. presidential election is just twenty-three days away, I thought it my civic duty to encourage you, my readers, that are citizens of the United States to vote. Don’t stop reading now, I’m not going to tell you who to vote for nor do I plan to tell you who I voted for, my message is to exercise your right and in my humble opinion, obligation to vote. While voting in the U. S. is voluntary, it’s our chance to have a say in who represents us in local, state, and national governments. So get up and figure out how, when and where you can cast your votes in this very important election.
Last week, my traveling partner and I cast our votes by absentee ballot and delivered them on Saturday to poll workers stationed in parks around the city. The next day, I verified that our ballots arrived at the City Clerk’s office, ready to be counted on election day, November 3. It was convenient and reduced the risk for those of us who want to be safer at home, practice social distancing, and stay away from large gatherings such as polling places during this time of the virus.
When I filled in my ballot, I considered several factors, important to me, before marking the oval behind the candidate’s name. I use candidates in the plural because here in Wisconsin, we are voting for those who will fill a number of local and state legislative offices as well as electing a president. First, which candidates support providing an adequate social safety net to help improve the lives of vulnerable families and individuals in our country? In other words, looking out for the greater good. It’s things like access to food, affordable housing, and health care. A corollary to this are the candidates that verbalize and demonstrate support for Social Security, Medicare, and veterans benefits. As a senior and a veteran, this is a pocketbook issue that affects both my income and healthcare.
Second, which candidates are strong supporters of primary and secondary education? A good education with masterful, caring teachers are important to develop the skills needed now and in the future. Here in Madison, we have two referendums on the ballot related to the local school district. Again, when I voted, I looked at the greater good rather than focus how it would personally benefit or cost me.
Third, I’m interested in candidates that are concerned about the impact of climate change and the environment such as clean water and air. This concern includes financial support and maintenance of our local, state, and national parks, monuments and historic sites. To me these are treasures for the benefit of all.
Finally, I evaluate which candidates have strong character and values. I want someone that can build and maintain mutually beneficial relationships with others to make improvements in our society. Certainly, there are other factors I consider. My point is: it’s not just one issue or concern but looking at the whole picture.
In addition to voting, I’ve made small dollar contributions to the campaigns of candidates who meet most or all the criteria listed above. And I’ve stuck a few signs in our yard of candidates I prefer. I’ve also volunteered for organizations that address some of my main concerns such as: Second Harvest Food Bank, the Salvation Army, the River Alliance of Wisconsin, 4-H, and the First Tee of South Central Wisconsin (a youth development program). Many of my readers and followers do as much or more than I do. Keep up the outstanding works for the greater good. Just last week, I did volunteer photography (wearing a mask and socially distance where possible) for the Habitat for Humanity of Dane County at a Habitat Home Repair project. Here are a few photos from that project.
As I was writing this article, I reflected back to my early years and it’s influence on my interest in the political process. I do say that we had a pretty good “civics” education both in the five years at a rural, country school and the following years in the local “town” school. I remember having “debates” and straw polls in the 1960 and 1964 presidential elections. Sometime during high school I took an one-semester “U. S. Government” class taught by Mr. Fuhrer. I loved this class even the exams and papers. If I recall correctly, I got the best grades in this class in during my high school years. I liked learning about the different levels of government, the separation of powers, and the similarities and differences between the political parties. This basic foundation kept me reading and learning more so I can be an informed voter.
When I graduated from high school at age eighteen, I was not eligible to vote in local, state and national elections. This was during the time of the Vietnam War where young men were drafted into the military but didn’t have the right to vote for our country’s leadership. This disparity was rectified by the ratification in the fall of 1971 of the 26th Amendment to the U. S. Constitution that gave 18-21 year olds the right to vote. I was in the Army at the time and thinking, “it was about time” and wondered what took so long. I wondered what my Dad thought about this issue when he went off to serve in WWII. Unfortunately, I never asked him.
The first national election I could vote in was in 1972. My Traveling Partner and I were newly weds living in Honolulu, Hawaii where I was stationed while in the Army. Since we weren’t residents of Hawaii, we wrote back to our respective county clerk offices in North Dakota to request an absentee ballot. I remember like it was yesterday, spreading our paper ballots out on our small kitchen table in our apartment on Anapuni Street, discussing, and then casting our votes. It was a momentous day for both of us, the opportunity to have our say who represents and speaks for us.
In the past several years, my Traveling Partner and I have served at election officials at our local polling place. Unfortunately, due to our age (we are some of the younger poll workers), the virus is keeping us and others from participating this year. Fortunately, many healthy, young people have stepped up to staff the polls to ensure citizens can vote safely and in a timely manner. The thing that I’ll miss working at the polls is the excitement that first-time voters exhibit when casting their first ballot. The eighteen-year-olds usually come to the polls accompanied by one or both of their parents. New naturalized citizens may come alone or with a family member but the thrill of voting is palpable in their eyes and facial expressions. I wish those citizens who pass on their opportunity to vote could see what voting means to these new voters.
This year is the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the U. S Constitution that gave the right of women to vote. This was a decades long struggle that began in 1848. Again, I wonder why it took so long. At that time, more than half of the population of the U. S. was ineligible to vote. Besides women, this included indigenous men and women, peoples of Chinese descent, and most African-Americans. I often wonder what my Grandmother born in 1903 thought about women getting the right to vote. My guess she quietly but strongly supported this right. I wish I would have talked to her about this time in her young life.
Even though the Supreme Court in 1964 handed down the rule “one man, one vote” and Congress passed the Voting Rights Act of 1965, there are still organized attempts to disenfranchise some voters. Not one of our finer moments, I my view. I believe we should try to expand and encourage all eligible voters to cast their ballot.
So my parting message is simple. Despite the obstacles and barriers some may place in your way, vote. Vote like our democracy depends on it. It does.
Join me for the next few weeks for retrospectives on the one year anniversary of my trip to Australia.
Until then, happy virtual travels!