Please don’t stay away from the polls in November

Are you a U.S. citizen, or planning to become one very shortly? Are you eligible to vote?

If the answer to both of these questions is ‘yes,’ then please, I am begging you from the bottom of my heart, please go to the polls this November. We might have differences of political opinion on various issues hitting the ballot, from candidates to ballot measures, but I want you to vote, okay? It’s really important to me. Here’s why.

Obviously, the 2016 election is a big deal. We’re all tired of hearing about it, talking about it, and dealing with it (I’m so sorry, overseas readers). But there is a lot at stake this year, including a presidential race which could have really far-reaching implications. I would hope that most progressives are voting against Donald Trump, and if you’re clinging hard to Bernie or Bust, I’m begging you to reconsider, and to do more than just not voting for Trump: I’m asking you to vote for Hillary Clinton. Setting aside whatever you or I might feel about Bernie Sanders, it would be catastrophic for you to vote for Donald Trump or to take a ‘protest vote’ and not vote at all. This election is going to be a lot tighter than you might think it is, and you shouldn’t count on other people to do your voting for you so you can maintain a squeaky-clean conscience. Remember all those people who cast ‘Leave’ votes expecting ‘Remain’ to carry the day in June’s Brexit vote? Yeah, don’t be one of those people.

Conservatives of varying stripes, I’m gonna get real with you for a moment: I actually like the vast majority of you. We have interesting, dynamic, and engaging conversations, even if we don’t necessarily think similarly and even if neither of us changes our minds by the end. And I hope, and think, that you are concerned about Donald Trump’s implications for America — he’s killing the Republican party, but he also represents a serious threats to things that I know you care about, like national security, economic independence, and state’s rights. Some of you might not be thrilled with Hillary Clinton, and I respect that, but she is an extremely qualified woman with a pragmatic, realistic view of the world, and she cares about a lot of the same things you do. She would make a strong president, she would uphold core American values, and she should be vastly superior to Donald Trump.

But this is about a lot more than Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. We are voting on a ton of Congressional seats as well as state legislatures. Those people are going to have a profound impact on the future of US government. Not just in the short term (and think about the rise of cookie-cutter legislation with seriously damaging effects), but in the long term. Where do presidential candidates come from? With a few notable exceptions, most come from within the ranks of government, with experience as legislators and governors, mayors and city council members. Please vote all the way down the ballot, because you, yes you, have a major role to play in state, regional, and local government. I’m going to have more commentary on local government next week, but bottom line, it’s important.

And it’s about those ballot measures. Many states have initiative and referendum systems and many of them are deploying a ton of them this year. With larger turnout because of the presidential election, some of these things are super high stakes. You could be directly shaping laws with huge impacts for your state, county or parish, or city. Sometimes the number of votes on those measures is surprisingly small and the margin is also pretty slim. Your vote seriously actually really matters.

I know people like to say that voting doesn’t really matter and it doesn’t make a difference, but it does. It matters. Elections and their repercussions are decided by the people who turn out to vote, and I really want you to be one of them. I want you to play an active role in deciding the future direction of this country — yes, even if your vision of the future direction of this country differs from mine. We both have a right to vote and an imperative to vote. I don’t want you to wake up on election day to a result you didn’t want, filled with regret.

Progressives in particular tend to talk a big talk and then not show up, assuming that other people will manage their votes for them. Please don’t do this. Conservative turnout this year is likely to be large, and Donald Trump commands an army of really ardent supporters. Democrats are highly skilled at snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, as I say at least once a week, and I don’t want it to happen this time. Your vote matters. I’m not asking you to campaign, although if you want to encourage your friends to vote, that would be rad. I’m not asking you to donate to any political causes. All I am asking is that you please, for the love of all that is this country, please vote. 

If you’re not registered to vote, please go do it. If you don’t know whether you’re registered to vote, contact your county or parish clerk to verify your registration. If you have recently moved, your registration didn’t follow you, and you need to reregister. If you know that you will not be able to make it to the polls in November, request an absentee ballot so you can vote by mail. Here’s a list of complete details on voter registration deadlines and deadlines for absentee ballot requests: There’s still time to do both.

There’s a lot to fix when it comes to how we conduct elections and govern this country, but we can’t do any of it with the wrong people in office, so right now, you need to vote.

Image: Polling Place, Mrs. Gemstone, Flickr