The best defense of democracy is an informed electorate. Those words may be more important today than when Thomas Jefferson opined on the topic back in 1789. And while he was referring to the United States Constitution, the message is equally important for local elections.
This Tuesday, November 7, is election day, and while these off-cycle elections typically draw fewer voters, the results can impact your daily life in significant ways. There are municipal elections for Borough Council, Township Supervisor, School Board Director, County Commissioner, and County and Statewide Judges this year.
Even before I became involved in politics, I voted in every primary and general election. I take my responsibility very seriously and do my research to vote for the best candidates who align most closely with my views. So many women came before me who did not have the opportunity to vote, so I never take my right for granted.
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We tend to forget that women have only had the right to vote for 103 years since the inception of the 19th Amendment, just four generations ago! And African American men earned the right to vote with the passage of the 15th Amendment in 1870, six generations ago.
Many before us fought hard, both literally and figuratively, to ensure that every citizen has the right to vote in our country. It is one of the rights that makes the United States the greatest country in the world. We are far from perfect, but our democracy allows us the opportunity to address past mistakes and ultimately right the wrongs.
That is why I don’t understand why so many people choose not to vote. “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” Martin Luther King, Jr. understood the importance of voting as a way to make your voice heard.
Today, I hear many people on both sides complain about issues, myself included. If you are going to expend the energy to complain, you should at least show up to vote in an attempt to change what is bothering you. As Thomas Jefferson aptly explained, “We do not have government by the majority. We have government by the majority who participate.”
The group that is more baffling than those who don’t vote are the people who vote without learning about the candidates. John F. Kennedy understood the issue. “The ignorance of one voter in a democracy impairs the security of all.”
The only way to keep our democratic republic is through the active and informed participation of our citizens.
Local elections matter and have consequences. School directors can raise your taxes without a referendum. County commissioners can close schools and businesses. Township supervisors can mandate paper straws and bags, and judges make important decisions every day. All of these elected officials make decisions that can affect your family, work, and leisure time. Surely, the positions of these candidates are worth a few minutes of reading time.
Franklin D. Roosevelt described the issue well. “Democracy cannot succeed unless those who express their choice are prepared to choose wisely. The real safeguard of democracy, therefore, is education.”
This year, I challenge every voter to spend time this weekend researching the candidates on their ballot. Look up your sample ballot on your county Voter Services website, and invest an hour to find candidates that best represent your views. This is time well spent, and you will feel better about your choices when you cast your ballot on Tuesday.
More importantly, you might change what is happening in your local community. Every voter has the opportunity to leave a legacy for their children and grandchildren. What do you want that legacy to be? I want to leave a legacy of being actively involved in my government and community and to leave it a better place than I found it.
When asked about the new government that the delegates created, Benjamin Franklin answered, “A republic, if you can keep it.” The only way to keep our democratic republic is through the active and informed participation of our citizens. Lest we risk losing it, please approach your civic duty this November 7 with enthusiasm and due diligence to cast an informed vote. Become an informed voter, and I promise you won’t regret it.
Beth Ann Rosica resides in West Chester, has a Ph.D. in Education, and has dedicated her career to advocating on behalf of at-risk children and families. She covers education issues for Broad + Liberty. Contact her at email@example.com.