On Election Day, it’s amazing the reasons we invent to avoid voting. If you’re not viciously ill, severely agoraphobic or otherwise incapacitated by something outside your control, it’s your duty to vote. There are examples from history that can serve as inspiration for those of us a little too lazy, or seemingly too busy, to get to the poll.

Exercise your freedom

Through the last several hundred years when democracies have taken hold around the world, there have been efforts to intimidate voters. In 2005, 79 percent of Iraqis turned out to vote in that country’s first freely held election after Saddam Hussein’s ouster. The election saw few acts of violence. However, after years of war, in March 2010, terrorists killed 31 people on Election Day. Reports of violence throughout Iraq that day didn’t dampen the spirits of citizens aiming to make an impact. Sixty-two percent of Iraqis turned out that year, making a stand against the terrorists.

While we’re used to seeing violence during foreign elections, America isn’t immune from harrowing stories of voter intimidation. For decades after the Civil War, whites in the South feared the sizeable black population and used all manner of intimidation to keep them out of the voting booth. They did this despite the 15th Amendment, which gave black men the right to vote. This voter intimidation took the form of lynchings, beatings and assassinations, as well as violence against Northerners who tried to turn out the black vote.

When Mainers go to the polls Nov. 4, no one will be threatening our polling places or trying to keep us from voting. If Iraqis were brave enough to vote amid fears of terrorism and brave American blacks rose up to defy their white oppressors, how can we sit home and ignore our duty and privilege to vote?

Have an impact

The importance of voting can’t be overstated since governing philosophy changes depending on who’s in charge. Ronald Reagan took the country in a conservative direction on the domestic front and built up the military; George W. Bush got us into wars he said were necessary to fight terrorism; Barack Obama pushed for government-directed health insurance. While our national leaders have considerable sway over our lives, at the state level, the work of the governor and state legislators also can have a substantial impact as they determine which programs will be funded and which won’t. The last 20 years of state and national politics have especially proven that whom you vote for really matters since you will be personally affected by their policies. So, get out and vote and pick someone whose principles mesh with your own.

Voting is the essence of America

It’s easy to forget what makes America the shining city on the hill since we have such bounty. But it’s not our American-designed digital gadgets from Silicon Valley that make us great, or our professional sports leagues. Neither is it our economic prowess. Rather, the core principle of American greatness is our continued belief in a representative democracy, which puts the people in charge of their government, rather than the government in charge of the people.

In this age of tracking and domestic spying, as well as the proliferation of laws regulating nearly every aspect of our lives, we tend to forget that we, the people, still have a say in how we live our lives. People can rise up and protest, as we sometimes do, but the best way to change government is on voting day.

As each Election Day usually does, Nov. 4 offers voters a wide range of choices for local, state and federal representatives, as well as state and local referendum questions. Your vote can have impact, and not using that power is a wasted opportunity.

– John Balentine, managing editor


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